Consulting firm Henley & Partners has just released its Henley Openness Index 2023, which ranks all 199 countries and territories worldwide according to the number of nationalities they permit entry to without a prior visa. The index shows the relationship between a country’s openness to foreigners, i.e. how many nations it allows to cross its borders visa-free, and its own citizens’ travel freedom.
The Henley Openness Index (HOI) is a reverse calculation of the Henley Passport Index (HPI), which ranks all the world’s passports according to the number of destinations their holders can access without a prior visa. The HPI is based on data from the International Air Transport Association (IATA) and enhanced by Henley & Partners. This year Seychelles ranked 1st in the Henley Openness Index with the best score in the Passport Index: 24th.
Global connectivity and access have become indispensable features of wealth creation and preservation.Christian H. Kaelin, Chairman of Henley & Partners
1. Conditions and criteria
Visa-Free Access: For each country/territory, if passport holders from a particular country/territory can enter without requiring a visa in advance, a score of 1 is assigned. This includes cases where passport holders are granted visa-free access upon arrival, are issued a visitor’s permit, or can obtain an electronic travel authority (ETA) without needing pre-departure government approval. These visa types fall under specific visa-waiver programs implemented by the destination country.
Visa Requirement: If a visa is necessary for passport holders to enter a country/territory or if they must obtain a government-approved electronic visa (e-Visa) before departure, a score of 0 is assigned. Similarly, if passport holders need pre-departure government approval for a visa on arrival, this is considered as not meeting the criteria for “visa-free” and a score of 0 is assigned.
The total Openness Score for each country/territory is equal to the number of countries/territories with visa-free access, based on the conditions mentioned above (score = 1). This scoring methodology ensures that the HOI accurately reflects the number of countries/territories whose passport holders enjoy visa-free access to each country/territory, taking into account various visa types and requirements. It provides a comprehensive measure of global openness, facilitating comparisons between countries/territories.
2. Calculating Openness percentage
The Openness percentage is calculated by dividing the Openness Score of a country/territory by 198, namely, the total number of countries/territories considered (excluding the country/territory itself), which represents the maximum score possible in the index. This normalization allows for a standardized comparison across different countries, providing a percentage value that represents the relative openness of a country/territory.
3. Calculating HPI percentage
The HPI calculates the global mobility power of a passport by considering the number of destinations to which a passport holder can travel without requiring a visa in advance. The HPI score is based on a total of 226 destinations, excluding the country itself. The HPI percentage is calculated by dividing the HPI Score of a passport by 226 (the total number of destinations considered in the index) and then multiplying by 100 to obtain the percentage value.
Since the HPI in percentage aims to represent all 227 jurisdictions, including the country itself, the formula is slightly adjusted. The HPI score is added by 1 and then divided by 227 (total jurisdictions), which gives the percentage of passport holders’ visa-free access in relation to all jurisdictions. The resulting HPI percentage provides a convenient representation of a passport’s global reach, indicating the proportion of jurisdictions worldwide where passport holders can travel without having to obtain a visa before they depart.
4. Most open countries
5. Least open countries
6. Links between visa-free access and openness
The Top 20 ‘most open’ countries are all small island nations or African states, except for Cambodia. There are 12 completely open countries that offer visa-free or visa-on-arrival entry to all 198 passports in the world (not counting their own), namely: Burundi, Comoro Islands, Djibouti, Guinea-Bissau, Maldives, Micronesia, Mozambique, Rwanda, Samoa, Seychelles, Timor-Leste, and Tuvalu. At the bottom of the Henley Openness Index, four countries score zero, permitting no visa-free access for any passport: namely, Afghanistan, North Korea, Papua New Guinea, and Turkmenistan. They are followed by five countries that provide visa-free access to fewer than five other nationalities: namely, Libya, Bhutan, Eritrea, Equatorial Guinea, and India.
“Nations’ diplomatic and socio-economic realities and strategic goals significantly impact these factors, resulting in a complex web of interrelations,” professor Yossi Harpaz at Tel Aviv University. “As the global landscape continues to change, so will these patterns, reflecting the dynamic nature of global mobility.”
Lindsay went on to explain that while the correlation between a high openness score and high visa-free access score is less evident in the data, “it is notable that Singapore and South Korea — high climbers on the Henley Passport Index over last decade, moving up from 6th and 7th respectively in 2013 to 1st and 3rd today — boast relatively high degrees of openness, while the US and Canada have slid down the Top 10 rankings as their openness stagnates.”
7. Unwelcoming developed economies
While American passport holders can access 184 (out of 227) destinations visa-free, the US itself only allows 44 other nationalities to pass through its borders visa-free, putting it way down the Henley Openness Index in 78th place (compared to 8th place on the Henley Passport Index). When comparing the two rankings, the USA’s disparity in access versus its openness is the second biggest, narrowly trailing only Australia (and barely outpacing Canada). New Zealand and Japan also make it into the Top 5 countries with the biggest difference between the travel freedom they enjoy versus the visa-free access they provide to other nationalities. It is interesting to note that these five nations have all either dropped down the Henley Passport Index rankings or remained in the same place over the last ten years.
The Top 5 countries with the biggest (negative) difference between their own visa-free access and their openness to other nations are Somalia, Sri Lanka, Djibouti, Burundi, and Nepal, and the Top 5 with the smallest discrepancy between their access and their openness are Singapore, South Korea, Malaysia, Hong Kong (SAR China), and Barbados.