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What Does a Stronger Passport vs. a Weaker Passport Mean?

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If you are from a developed country, chances are you have a strong passport.

And if you are from a developing country, you might have a weaker passport (though not always).

But what does all this mean?

What Does a Stronger Passport vs. a Weaker Passport Mean?
Featured article photo by Baigal Byamba (CC BY 2.0 License)

Put simply:

Holders of a strong passport can VISIT a lot of countries without a tourist visa, for a longer period of time.

This means if you have a strong passport, you can pack your bags and book a plane ticket right now, to a popular destination country, and you can most likely just go.

There are countries where you will need to apply a visa first to visit, but if you have a strong passport, the number of countries you can enter without a visa in advance is usually a lot more than the number of countries where you need one.

To find out whether you have a strong or a weaker passport, you can head over to Passport Index or the Henley Passport Index. There are many indexes that measure passport strength on other metrics, but these two rankings are amongst the most popular ones.

Below is a screenshot of passport rankings from the Passport Index taken in mid-2023.

The higher your passport is ranked, the stronger it is.

Passport Index (July 2023)

The number shown beside each passport is the number of countries holders of the passport can visit without a visa. For example, at the time this screenshot is taken (mid-2023), citizens of Sweden 🇸🇪 can visit 175 countries in the world without needing to apply for a tourist visa in advance.

What about those with weaker passports?

Citizens of countries with weaker passports can visit fewer countries without a tourist visa.

They may be able to visit a few developed countries without a visa, but for many popular destinations, chances are they will have to apply for a tourist visa in advance.

This means holders of weaker passports can't make impromptu travel trips to these destinations even if they have the money to do so, as they have to apply for a tourist visa first. To apply for a tourist visa, they will need to meet the requirements of their destination country, such as:

  • By proving they have enough money,
  • By proving they are employed (or are in school),
  • By paying a visa fee,
  • By submitting a travel plan (a list of where they'll go and where they'll stay during the trip)

Holders of weaker passports will have to provide documentation to prove that they meet the visa requirements often months in advance before their intended travel date. Documents they will have to supply include:

  • Bank statements
  • Letter of employment (Imagine having to ask for a letter from your boss so that you can travel!)
  • Proposed trip itinerary
  • Passport scans, copy of drivers' license
  • and more

And keep in mind, they are not moving to another country with these documentation—they are only visiting. Essentially, holders of weaker passports have to apply to spend their tourist money in countries they can't travel to without a visa.

The specific requirements will vary from one country to another, but in any case, there is no guarantee that a tourist visa application will be approved. Holders of weaker passports could be preparing everything for months in advance, have more than enough money set aside for the trip, and there is still a possibility that they won't be allowed to go.

Over and Out

With almost 200 countries in the world, there are stronger and weaker passports in every continent.

In Asia, passports from Singapore, Japan, and South Korea are considered amongst the strongest along with most passports in Europe, as well as those in the Five Core Anglosphere Countries of United States, United Kingdom, Canada, New Zealand, and Australia.

In Africa, passports from Seychelles and Mauritius are amongst the strongest. Passports from Central and Latin American countries, as well as the Carribean are also relatively strong for travelling purposes.

As an outro of this article, here is a video from Yes Theory on YouTube that explores the difference having a stronger passport can make:

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