London, Dec 9 (CNN) — For the busiest of business travelers, who regularly find themselves called to fly to a string of countries at short notice, up-to-date information on which countries require visas or electronic travel authorizations (eTAs) is essential.
That’s where Passport Indexes come in. There are several rival indexes on the market, including Arton Capital’s Passport Index and the Henley Passport Index, which measure the relative clout of citizens’ travel documents according to how many countries its holders can visit visa-free or visa-on-demand.
Arton Capital’s ranking currently declares the United Arab Emirates as the world’s most powerful, while Henley, which uses a different methodology, gives the crown to Japan.
On the flip side, though, are the countries whose doors are most open — in visa terms, at least. Arton Capital measures these in its Welcoming Countries Rank and its 2022 list provides some fascinating insights into the current state of global mobility.
The ranking is updated in real time, as frequently as new visa waivers and changes are implemented. We spoke to Arton Capital’s founder, Armand Arton, about its findings.
‘I realized what freedom is’
“I was born in Bulgaria, so I know what it is to travel with a ‘bad’ passport,” says Arton. “My parents were working in Morocco so I had to cross Europe when Schengen didn’t exist in the ’80s.
“As soon as the Berlin Wall fell down, we moved to Canada. And once I had the Canadian passport, I realized what freedom is.”
Gallup data released December 7 found that Canadians consistently are among the most likely in the world to see their communities as good places for migrants to live.
Canada also ranks highest on Gallup’s Migrant Acceptance Index and its government recently announced that it wants to bring in 1.5 million immigrants by 2025, to bolster the gap in its economy created by an aging population.
On the Welcoming Countries Rank, though, which looks at 199 countries and only measures them in terms of how many passports they accept visa-free, with visa on arrival or with eTA, Canada is a humble No. 71. The Great White North allows 54 nations easy access. That’s just above Australia, who give that privilege to 46 countries, and the United States, which permits 45.
The reciprocity model
“The countries that normally have the ‘best’ passports [in the power rankings] have the most restrictive visas,” says Arton. “If you take [those] top countries, they’re not the most welcoming — except Singapore.
“Singapore is the one who says, ‘You know what, we want to have visitors and be bilateral. So they have 170 [visa-free] places they can go, and [162 nationalities] who can enter in their country without [visas], so they’re believing in the reciprocity.”
Singapore is No. 16 on the Welcoming Countries Rank, followed closely by a couple of other Asian destinations embracing the reciprocity model: Hong Kong at No. 21 and South Korea at No. 33.
As for the nations in the very top spot, there are 23 of them, all granting easy access to visitors from 198 countries out of 199.
While they might be welcoming in terms of visa restrictions, some countries or regions might not be safe to visit for all travelers. It’s recommended that you check the travel advisories of your home country before planning any trips.
Tourism and trade
Passport power is on the rise around the world, with countries in general becoming more welcome and — with Covid restrictions increasingly lifted — we are in fact in a golden age of global mobility.
The continent that has embraced this open travel environment more than anywhere else is Africa, and particularly Central and West Africa. 15 of the ranking’s 23 “most welcoming” countries are to be found there, from Angola to Malawi to South Sudan.
Then there are the island nations, Maldives, Samoa and Tuvalu among them, whose local economies also could do with the boost that visitors and migrants bring.
Afghanistan is the country, according to Arton Capital’s Passport Index, which has the least doors open to it: Only Dominica, Haiti and Micronesia offer its citizens a visa-free green light.
The benefits to countries around the world of taking an open approach to travel are simple. “Exchange, tourism, the development of trades, versus the visa income that they generate which is very, very small,” says Arton.
“So when they measure the pros and cons of having a visa, which is a heavy documented regime, we’re seeing a trend towards e-visa, where a country says, ‘we still maybe want to generate a couple of million from visas, but let’s make it online.”
Arton thinks the day is coming when physical visa documents will be no more. “We believe that in the future, paper visas will disappear. You will not give in your passport in an embassy and wait for a week for somebody to make a stamp.”
Welcoming Countries Rank 2022
1. Angola, Djibouti, Guinea, Maldives, Comoros, Somalia, Bolivia, East Timor, Malawi, Qatar, Micronesia, Burundi, Guinea-Bissau, Nigeria, Tuvalu, Samoa, Gabon, Cote d’Ivoire, South Sudan, Democratic Republic of Congo, Rwanda, Cambodia, Ethiopia
2. Seychelles, Togo, Uganda, Cape Verde, Mauritania, Suriname
3. Palau, Dominica, Madagascar
86. North Korea, Turkmenistan, Afghanistan
85. Macao, Libya, Eritrea, Bhutan
84. Equatorial Guinea
83. Sudan, Algeria
82. Myanmar, Cameroon