The passports were ranked by the number of destinations their holders can access without a visa.

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Japanese Passport on suitcase
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If passports are the key to international travel, then who wouldn't want the master key that opens the most doors? Though there's no nation that can get its citizens into every country in the world visa-free, the 2021 Henley Passport Index found that Japan's passport is the most powerful.

This is the fourth consecutive year that Japan snagged the top spot in this assessment of nearly 200 passports worldwide. It also marks yet another year that the U.S. failed to make the top five.

Henley & Partners, a global citizenship and residence advisory firm based in London, ranked the passports based on the number of destinations that their holders can enter without applying for a visa. Using data from the International Air Transport Association (IATA), the 2021 Henley Passport Index was released on Oct. 5 after an analysis of 199 passports and 227 travel destinations.

"For each travel destination, if no visa is required, then a score of 1 is allocated for that passport. This also applies if passport holders can obtain a visa on arrival, a visitor's permit, or an electronic travel authority (ETA) upon entry," the Henley report said, explaining the methodology used for its ranking. "Where a visa is required, or where a passport holder must apply for a government-approved electronic visa (e-visa) before departure, a score of 0 is assigned. The same applies if they need pre-departure approval for a visa on arrival."

The top three spots on this year's list went to Asian countries, with Japan sharing first place with Singapore (Singapore came in second last year, just one point behind Japan). Each of the first place countries have visa-free access to 192 destinations. Meanwhile, South Korea and Germany tied for second place, with access to 190 destinations.

The U.S., in seventh place, rose one spot from last year, with visa-free entry to 185 countries.

The Henley Passport Index also took took into account residence and citizenship by investment programs, which exist in nearly 100 countries, including 60% of the European Union.

To see the full report on which countries made the list of the world's most powerful passports, visit the Henley & Partners website.

Jessica Poitevien is a Travel + Leisure contributor currently based in South Florida, but she's always on the lookout for her next adventure. Besides traveling, she loves baking, talking to strangers, and taking long walks on the beach. Follow her adventures on Instagram.