Explained: What Henley Passport Index tells us about mobility of an Indian passport

Mehr Gill
Henley Passport index ranks passports based on their power and mobility.

The latest Henley Passport Index ranks India at 86, down five places from 81 in 2018. The index ranks passports based on their power and mobility. Last year, an Indian passport holder had visa-free access to 60 countries; this year, she has access to 58.

What is the Henley Passport Index?

Prepared by Henley and Partners, a London-based global citizenship and residence advisory firm, the Henley Passport Index claims to be the original ranking of all the world s passports . The index gathers data from the International Air Transport Association (IATA) that manages inter-airline cooperation globally. The Henley Passport Index is updated in real time according to countries visa policy changes. It covers 227 destinations and 199 passports.

The index receives data from the IATA on a fixed day every year that forms the basis of the index. This data is supplemented by accounting for real-time changes in visa policies using publicly available sources to prepare a visa list, which is a list of destinations that a passport can access visa-free, through a visa on arrival, e-visa or with a traditional visa.

Source: Henley Passport Index

How are passport ranks and scores interpreted?

Each passport is attributed with a score and a rank. For instance for 2019, India s score is 58 and it ranks 86 in the list. Japan and Singapore, on the other hand, are ranked 1 and have a score of 189.

The score is the sum of the number of countries accessible by that passport holder without requiring pre-departure government approval for visa-types including a visitor s permit, visa on arrival or an electronic travel authority (ETA). For every territory/country that a passport holder of a particular country/territory is able to access through these visa-types (without pre-departure government approval), a value of 1 is attributed to it.

A value of 0 is attributed to a score when a passport holder has to seek pre-departure government approval for visa-types including e-visa (visas applied for online and received) and visa on arrival. Therefore, the total score becomes the sum total for all the values of 1. For instance, a passport holder from Singapore and Japan can travel to 189 countries/territories without requiring pre-departure government approval.

What does this mean for Indian passport holders?

India has a score of 58. That is the number of destinations an Indian passport holder can travel to today, without pre-departure government approval. That is the same as a citizen of any country, on an average, could travel to 13 years ago. In 2006, a citizen, on an average, could travel to 58 destinations without needing a visa from the host nation; by 2018, this number had nearly doubled to 107, Henley and Partners noted in the Global Mobility Report, released in 2019.

Afghanistan holds the weakest passport, with a score and ranking of 25 and 109, respectively. Syria and Pakistan follow with rankings of 107 and 106 and scores of 29 and 30, respectively.

Passport rankings point towards the strength of diplomatic relations between countries. In the past decade travel freedom has expanded vastly as a result of the rising number of bilateral visa-waiver programmes signed between different countries and unilateral decisions implemented by governments of some countries.

Source: Henley Passport Index

What assumptions does the index make?

The index assumes that the passport is valid, belongs to an adult who is a citizen of the issuing country and that it is not diplomatic, emergency or temporary in nature. It also assumes that the person travelling is doing so alone, rather than in tourist groups and meets all the basic requirements for entry such as hotel reservations. Furthermore, the traveller is assumed to be arriving and departing from the same airport and is seeking a short stay (between three days-several months) for business and tourist purposes only.

Are there other passport indices?

The Henley Passport Index is not the only index available on passport rankings. Others include the Arton Passport Index, which ranks United Arab Emirates s passport at rank 1 as per its most recent rankings. As per this index, India has a mobility score (MS) of 67, with visa required for 131 destinations, visa on arrival required for 41 destinations and 26 destinations where Indian passport holders can travel visa free. This index uses a three-tier approach to rank passports, attributing scores and using the United Nations Development Programme Human Development Index 2018 in its methodology. It is powered by Arton Capital, a global financial advisory.