The Russian invasion of Ukraine has triggered the worst refugee crisis in Europe since World War II, and more than 4 million Ukrainians have fled to neighboring countries. The European Union, the United States, Canada and other Western countries have closed their airspace to Russia, imposed economic sanctions, and in many cases stopped processing visa applications altogether. In many ways, the Russian passport has been degraded to what Henley and Partners, the firm that each year creates the Henley Passport Index, has called “junk status”.
In stark contrast, the European Union has approved an emergency plan allowing Ukrainians to live and work in any of its 27 member states for up to three years, while other Western countries have adjusted their visa policies in favor of Ukrainian passport holders or have eliminated visa requirements altogether.
The war in Ukraine is effectively condemning the Russian passport to junk status throughout much of the developed world.Christian H. Kaelin, president of Henley & Partners
According to the latest Henley Passport Index, which is based on data from the International Air Transport Association (IATA), Ukraine currently boasts a visa-free or visa-on-arrival score of 143, a record for the country, which now ranks 34th on the index (having moved up 26 places since 2012), while Russia lags behind at 49th with a score of 117, a gap that is likely to widen in the coming months.
Dr. Christian H. Kaelin, president of Henley & Partners, says the latest update provides a unique snapshot of a volatile and rapidly changing world. “As the value of the Russian passport rapidly declines and the world opens its doors to Ukrainians, it becomes very clear that the passport you hold determines your destination and drastically impacts the opportunities available to you,” he said in a statement.
While it is impossible to predict what the world will look like, the latest index suggests that the divide between Russia and much of the Western world will only increase.Christian H. Kaelin, president of Henley & Partners
Elsewhere in the rankings, Japan and Singapore continue to share the top spot, with their passport holders able to access 192 destinations worldwide without a visa, regardless of temporary Covid restrictions. Germany and South Korea jointly occupy second place, with a score of 190 in the visa waiver/visa on arrival category, while Finland, Italy, Luxembourg and Spain share third place, whose passport holders can access 189 destinations worldwide without first acquiring a visa.
The United Kingdom, which recently dropped all remaining Covid-related restrictions, now ranks 5th, with a score of 187, and the United States ranks just one place lower at 6th, with a score of 186. Afghanistan remains at the bottom of the index, as its nationals can only access 26 destinations without a visa.
Sebastian Mikosz, IATA’s vice president of environment and sustainability, says forecasts indicate a demand for 10 billion passenger trips by 2050 (up from around 4 billion pre-pandemic). “Much of this growth will come from passengers who have never had the opportunity to fly before: in Asia, Africa and Latin America. We owe it to this next generation of travelers to find sustainable solutions so that they can enjoy and benefit from air travel as we have done so far,” Mikosz said.