Which passport to use?

Here at MFT we take great interest in passports, visas and travel restrictions–in part because we love traveling, and in part because we are constantly dealing with nationality-related issues. All five of our contributors (including the dear and basically-departed Saru) are US citizens. Four of us live in Japan and a couple of us have seriously contemplated taking Japanese citizenship. Curzon is a dual citizen of the UK and I am a dual citizen of Ireland. While Roy is only a US citizen (as far as any of us can tell), he has a strong academic interest in citizenship law.

I was recently taking a look at the Henley survey, which ranks countries by the freedom of movement afforded their passport holders. The full list is here, and the rankings surprised me enough that I decided to poke through the web to find out how travel restrictions differ for American, Japanese, British and Irish citizens.

It turns out that Ireland has the second-best passport in the world, tied with Finland and Portugal, and second only to Denmark’s. Irish citizens can enter 156 countries without an advance visa.

The US is tied for #3 in the global ranking, alongside Belgium, Germany and Sweden. US citizens can enter 155 countries without an advance visa.

Japan is tied for #4 in the global ranking, alongside Canada, Italy, Luxembourg, the Netherlands and Spain. Japanese citizens can enter 154 countries without an advance visa.

The UK is at #6, tied with France, and UK citizens can access 152 countries. But British passport holders have to be careful about the type of passport they hold: it is possible to get a British passport without being a British citizen (most often by being a former subject of a defunct British possession such as Ireland or Hong Kong), and the travel restrictions on such passports are tighter. For instance, a British non-citizen passport can’t be used for a visa waiver to enter the United States–but on the flip side, a British passport held by a Hong Kong subject can be used to enter China without a visa.

The differences in visa waiver coverage are interesting, if seemingly arbitrary at times. In the chart below, an “O” means no visa is required or that a visa can be purchased on arrival, while an “X” means that a visa must be acquired in advance.

            USA  GBR  IRL  JPN

Belize       O    O    O    X
Bolivia      X    O    O    O
Brazil       X    O    O    X
Paraguay     X    O    O    O
Suriname     X    X    X    O

Rwanda       O    O    X    X

China (PRC)  X    X    X    O
Iran         X    O    O    O
Mongolia     O    X    X    X
Vietnam      X    X    X    O

13 thoughts on “Which passport to use?”

  1. My country isn’t rated as high as I thought it might be, but then we do need a visa for China, which Japanese, as of a few years ago, do not (for economic reasons no doubt). Another interesting chart that I would like to see is which countries are the most open to visitors.

  2. List of countries aside, the Italian passport is a bureaucratic joke at times. Each time you leave Italy directly for a country outside the EU (i.e. no transfers within the EU) you must pay a €40 “leaving” tax (Italian citizens only). Most Italians don’t even bother with a passport as most of the nearby non-EU countries (Balkans, northern Africa) accept the Identity Card.

  3. It’s irritating to pay 5000 yen everytime I go to Mongolia.They don’t even have spouse visa nor multiple entry.The rumour hazzard that the money the embassy gets for visa application would be more than a million U.S dollar and somehow it vanishes.

  4. “The rumour hazzard”

    I don’t like correcting too many mistakes of non-native speakers, since my own Japanese はまだまだ完璧とは言えないが、 I am sure what you mean here is “the rumour has it,” right?

    I can see you hearing it, and thinking that is what they are saying. I sympathise: the first time I tried to look up いやらしい in a dictionary I was looking under や…..

  5. I’m still here in spirit!

    p.s. I am going to be in Tokyo the week before Thanksgiving if you are around. I already let Adamu and Curzon know. Would be great to catch up with everyone if time permits.

  6. You should at least comment more often, even if we aren’t getting any more posts. I’ll see if I can make it out to Tokyo when you’re in town, but it’s not 100% as things are looking.

  7. “rumor hazzard”

    I imagined some hazardous blizzard of rumors.

    Just don’t spell “Tatooine” wrong again.

  8. You see,Benjamin.I’m about a dozen years older than you.And I’d imagine what you meant by “Star Wars” are those CG oriented trilogy,not the good ol’days Episode 4,5 and 6.and back in those days,Tatooine was spelled with “W”.

    But in the new series,Geouge Lucas was confronted with the attacks from the critics that the rise of galactic empire resembles the rise of George W.Bush after 911.
    That persuades Lucas,just like the Sith lord had done in the movie, to remove all the “republican”element from the script.
    One can only speculate that “dubya” was removed from the name of the desert planet in this procedure.

Comments are closed.