While the politics of 2017 suggest isolationism and hostility to migration, the reality has been the relaxing of controls particularly among key expat centres like the UK, Malta, Singapore and the UAE, which compete to entice cross border wealth.
London-based international residence and citizenship specialists Henley Partners’ 2018 Henley Passport Index reveals that Germany hung on to its top spot with visa free access to 177 countries, followed by Singapore on 176 and eight countries including the UK on 175.
Austria, Spain and Switzerland are among those countries ranked 4th with 174. The US is one of the countries coming in at number five with 173 visa free deals. All improved their tally of visa-free deals by one.
“We are seeing a growing tendency towards a more isolationist, immigration-hostile policy among traditional migrant-receiving countries such as the US, and 2018 will bring further uncertainty, with the UK still in the grip of ongoing Brexit negotiations,” said Christian Kälin, group chairman of Henley & Partners.
“Nonetheless, only a small minority of countries on the Henley Passport Index lost visa-free access in 2018. By and large, countries either improved or maintained their access compared to 2017. These findings reflect the fact that, while certain countries are tightening their borders, most are in fact becoming more open, as they seek to tap into the immense economic value that tourism, international commerce and migration can bring.”
Of the 199 countries listed, 143 improved their ranking, 41 maintained them and just seven dropped one visa-free deal.
Globally, Georgia and Ukraine gained the most in 2017 thanks to completing the EU visa liberalisation process gaining 32 and 30 international travel agreements, respectively.
According to Henley, investment migration is the most direct route to enhanced visa-free travel, with more countries launching citizenship by investment programmes.
Kälin points out that the countries that offer the most credible citizenship-by-investment programs in the world consistently perform strongly on the Henley Passport Index.
“Malta, for example, offers the top-ranked investment migration programme globally, and the country also scores very highly on the index, holding the world’s 9th most powerful passport and offering visa-free access to 169 countries,” he said.
“Austria also makes it into the top 10, with access to a total of 174 countries. Cyprus is not far behind in 17th place, with 159 countries accessible visa-free.”
Caribbean countries offering citizenship-by-investment programs have also performed well on this year’s index.
“Alternative citizenship represents the most direct route to global mobility, connectivity, and access. Individuals who have multiple passports benefit from each country’s best practices and are less vulnerable to its risks and shortcomings.” concludes Kälin.