India Improves its Passport Power

BY PIYUSH DIL

The power of the Indian passport has improved, with the country climbing seven places to rank in 83rd place in the Henley Passport Index, up from the 90th position in previous year’s rankings.

The Henley Global Mobility Report 2022 Q1, published quarterly by global immigration consultant firm Henley & Partners, shows that the Indian passport now has visa-free access to 60 destinations worldwide.

The index ranks all the world’s passports according to the number of destinations their holders can access without a prior visa and is based on exclusive data from the International Air Transport Association (IATA).

Oman and Armenia are the latest destinations that Indian passport holders can visit without obtaining a visa compared to 58 visa-free access destinations in the fourth quarter of 2021. Visa-free access refers to the number of countries Indian passport holders can visit without a visa or get visa-on-arrival.

But despite the latest rise, India has only improved its visa-free score by just seven in the last 10 years. It was 53 in 2011. India is currently with a number of countries to expand the coverage of visa-free travel, according to the Ministry of External Affairs.

However, India’s rank in the Henley Passport Index may soon go up further given the government’s plans to quickly introduce a new generation of e-passports. E-passports add a layer of security to traditional non‑electronic passports by embedding an electronic chip in the passport booklet. It stores the biographical information visible on page 2 of the passport as well as a digital security feature. This digital security feature is a ‘digital signature’ unique to each country and can be verified using their respective certificates.

More than 12.8 million passports were issued in 2019 by the Passport Issuing Authorities (PIA) in India and abroad, making India the largest passport issuer globally after China and the United States. India has already issued 20,000 official and diplomatic e-passports on a trial basis with an electronic microprocessor chip embedded in them.

The latest results from the Henley Passport Index show record-breaking levels of travel freedom for top-ranking nations Japan and Singapore, but also the widest recorded global mobility gap since the index’s inception 17 years ago.

Germany and South Korea hold onto joint 2nd spot on the latest ranking, with passport holders able to access 190 destinations visa-free, while Finland, Italy, Luxembourg, and Spain share 3rd place, with a score of 189.

The US and the UK passports have regained some of their previous strength after falling all the way to 8th place in 2020 – the lowest spot held by either country in the index’s 17-year history. Both countries now sit in 6th place, with a visa-free/visa-on-arrival score of 186.

The index shows that without taking temporary Covid-related restrictions into account, passport holders of the top nations – Japan and Singapore can now enter 192 destinations around the world visa-free. This is 166 more than Afghanistan, which sits at the bottom of the index.