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How powerful is your passport?

Melanie Lieberman
May 22, 2017

Once the most powerful travel document in the world (back in 2014), the United States passport is still pretty strong. U.S. citizens have visa-free access to 174 countries across the globe, including such far-flung destinations as Brunei and Kyrgyzstan.

U.S citizens can even get a visa on arrival for many countries, including Azerbaijan, Indonesia, Bahrain, Cambodia, Djibouti, Ethiopia, Kuwait, Laos, Lebanon, Nepal, Rwanda, and others. Americans can travel across South America (save for Brazil and Suriname) without applying for visas, as well as most of the Caribbean. 

So the better question is not where Americans can travel without a visa — but rather where Americans cannot travel without one.

While much of Europe is accessible for U.S. citizens visa-free, travelers interested in Russia must submit to a lengthy and expensive visa application process.

All travelers, regardless of their country of origin, also need visas to visit India and Australia, among other major tourist destinations.

But the U.S. is no longer the top-ranked passport.

Courtesy of Henley & Partners

According to Henley & Partners' annual Visa Restrictions Index, which is produced in cooperation with the International Air Transport Association, the U.S. fell to second place in 2015, and tumbled to fourth in 2016. This year, it made a marginal improvement, and tied with Denmark, Finland, Italy, and Spain for third.

In 2017, Sweden’s passport scored the second position on the index, with Germany maintaining the top spot: Germans can visit 176 countries out of a possible 218.

The index noted strong growth from island nations this year, with Kiribati, Micronesia, the Marshall Islands, Tuvalu, and the Solomon Islands all gaining more than nine places on the ranking. But it was Peru that showed the most improvement this year, leaping 15 places to the 41st spot.

Countries with the worst-ranking passports include Somalia, Syria, Pakistan, Iraq, and Afghanistan, the latter of which only has visa-free access to 24 countries.

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