Which Countries Have the Best Passports — And Which Have the Worst
Passport specifications are regulated by the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO), the relative power of your country's passport says a lot about its standing in thew world.
Sweden and Germany have the world's most useful passports. If your government-issued travel document says Sverige or Deutschland on the front cover, you have visa-free access to 157 countries across the globe. That's more than the holders of any other passport.
The Afghans are on the other end of the scale. Their passport only grants them visa-free access to 24 countries. No nationals are less welcome abroad, although the Pakistani are almost as unpopular: they only get visa-free access to 27 countries – less even than Iraq or Somalia (30 and 32 visa-free destinations, respectively).
Passport power is a rough compound of your country's wealth and peace. The higher it scores on either index, the more welcome you'll be around the world. But if your visit is statistically more likely to add to a country's poverty or turmoil, the less likely it is that your passport alone will get you in.
Burgundy is the main colour among European passports.
North American passports: mainly blue.
And yet even those pacifist Swedes and affluent Germans still require a visa for some countries. Which ones? Well, for starters: Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iraq and Somalia. If they have a hard time getting out, you'll have a hard time getting in.
But Swedes and Germans (and many other nationalities with powerful passports) also need visas for Saudi Arabia, Russia, India, Cuba, China, Belarus, both Congos and even the puny, Pacific atoll of Nauru. Among quite a few others. Being top of the heap list doesn't mean you get to walk into anywhere just for free. Still, most of the world is your oyster.
That oyster is shut tight if you're a Kabuli planning a get-away-from-it-all holiday. Only three countries grant genuine visa-free entry to Afghan nationals: Haiti and St. Vincent and the Grenadines in the Caribbean, and Micronesia in the Pacific. Question to any readers over there: see many Afghan holidaymakers?
A further 21 countries are satisfied to furnish Afghan visitors with a visa on arrival (and for a fee, of course). These include Bangladesh and Burundi, Madagascar and the Maldives, Togo and Tuvalu.
Where is America on the powerful-passport scale? Quite high up – in fourth place, granting access to 154 nations. As do the passports of Singapore, Luxembourg, Austria and Portugal. Doing one better are South Korea, Denmark, Norway, the Netherlands and Belgium, with 155 visa-free destinations. Six countries rank second after Sweden and Germany, with 156 visa-free countries: France, the UK, Italy, Spain, Switzerland and Finland.
The ranking is more complex than simply adding or subtracting one visa-free destination. For example: the U.S. ranks one destination higher than Japan, but that doesn't mean that U.S. passport holders get visa-free travel to all of Japan's visa-free destinations plus one.
With a Japanese passport, you don't need a visa for China, Laos or Vietnam, Bolivia, Paraguay and a few other destinations. With an American one, you do. Inversely, Japanese visitors need a visa for Armenia, Canada, Equatorial Guinea and some others, whereas American passport holders don't.
For the full ranking, and to see which countries you need a visa for, visit Passport Index.
That website includes a few intriguing graphics. One page shows the cover of all the world's passports, in what seems to be a riot of colour. In fact, passports come in many hues of only four basic colours: red and blue, green and black. Isolate 'Europe' in the drop-down menu, and the palette narrows to burgundy, mainly. Choose 'North America', and you're faced with twenty shades of blue.
What, if any, is the system behind the geographic distribution of passport colours?
Passport specifications are regulated by the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO), but colours are not part of the requirements listed in Document 9303. Countries are completely free to choose, but that choice is often determined by the regional club to which they belong – or want to belong.
Elsewhere on the Passport Index website, a world map provides an overview. Eliminating the hues to focus on the four main colours, the map looks like a game of Risk in full progress: some clustering ongoing, but still plenty of random variation.
Europe is red, but not entirely. Four countries prefer blue: Ukraine and Belarus, Bosnia and Iceland. Croatia is the even odder one out, preferring black. If we return to the passport picture overview for Europe, we see that Europe's red is mainly burgundy-tinted, as required by the European Union.
In 1981, “anxious to promote any measures which might strengthen the feeling among nationals of the Member States that they belong to the same Community," representatives of the member states of the European Communities – a precursor to the EU – resolved that their passports should have a similar design, including a burgundy cover.
If you're Boris Johnson (1), that probably adds to the evidence that the European project is a thinly veiled fascist superstate. Having decided to leave the European Union, Britain can finally cast off this burgundy straitjacket, among many other continental impositions.
Croatia, the EU's newest member state, will have to change its passport cover to burgundy next time it updates their design. Turkey, in wishful mimicry, imitates the EU's burgundy on its passports, in anticipation of one day joining the European club - although that ambition seems to have been put on the back-burner by both Turkish president Erdogan and the EU itself. Switzerland, on the other hand, distinguishes itself from Europe's subdued burgundy by adopting the bright red of its national flag.
Europe's red spills over into Asia via Turkey and Russia, all the way to Iran and Oman, and China and Japan – although the further east one gets, that is less likely to reflect any ambition to join the European Union, and more an indication of conformity to what is the world's most popular passport colour.
Blue, on the other hand, is the most popular colour in the Americas, all the way from Canada, via the U.S. and Brazil, down to Argentina. The laissez-passer for the U.S. has been navy blue since its bicentennial year, 1976, when the colour was chosen to match a shade in the American flag. Before that, U.S. passports were green (2).
Black is also the colour for Mexico, Nicaragua and Trinidad and Tobago. Nevertheless, blue is the colour for the other members of the 15-nation Caribbean Community (Caricom). It would seem that Mercosur, the South American economic association comprising Brazil, Argentina, Paraguay, Uruguay and Venezuela, follows the same rule. Blue, some say, symbolises the New World, perhaps because old-worlders needed to cross an ocean to discover, colonise and populate it.
Mercosur's South American rival, the Andean Community, appears to prescribe red for its four member countries, which would explain why Colombia, Ecuador, Peru and Bolivia's passports are in that colour – as well as those of Chile, a former Andean Community member. Jamaica also sports a red passport. Honduras is America's sole green spot.
Green is most popular in Africa, where one imagines it symbolises either the continent's verdant lushness, or the Islamic religion. The latter would explain why green spills over into southwest Asia (Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, Bangladesh, some of the 'stans). There is also a more prosaic reason for green's preponderance in Africa: it is the preferred colour for most (but not all) member states of Ecowas, the Economic Community of West African States.
Black is also most prevalent in Africa, from Algeria via Sudan and Congo to Botswana. The few non-African black passports, besides Croatia, are Iraq, Kyrgyzstan, India and New Zealand (doubtlessly a nod to the country's treasured All Blacks rugby team).
Does the world map of passport colours tend towards order or chaos? If the former, then perhaps one day all the passports in the Americas will be blue, all European ones red, all Islamic ones green, allsubsaharan African ones black. And all others the colour of the region they would most like to adhere to. But perhaps the latter is more preferable. The passport club could certainy use a few extra colours. How about a passport in bastard-amber, gingerline, drunk tank pink or banan?
Strange Maps #784
Got a strange map? Let me know at email@example.com.
(1) Former mayor of London, leading campaigner for Brexit, currently British Foreign Secretary.
(2) And not, as earlier stated, green the 1930s, and burgundy and black at later dates. Reader David Hecht explains: “all (regular) passports were green; there were -and are- however, burgundy and black U.S. passports to this day”.
“Black passports (or 'black books' to use the jargon of the well-traveled government employee) are reserved to diplomatic personnel: if you ever read or hear of an American "traveling on a diplomatic passport," you may rest assured that the color of their passport is black. These carry the imprint 'Diplomatic Passport'”.
“Next down in the hierarchy are 'red books'. These are U.S.-government ("For Official Use Only") passports that are issued to civil servants who are not diplomatic personnel. Red books are marked 'Official Passport'”.
“Finally, there are ordinary passports, blue since the Bicentennial and green prior to the changeover”.
What can 3D printing do for medicine? The "sky is the limit," says Northwell Health researcher Dr. Todd Goldstein.
- Medical professionals are currently using 3D printers to create prosthetics and patient-specific organ models that doctors can use to prepare for surgery.
- Eventually, scientists hope to print patient-specific organs that can be transplanted safely into the human body.
- Northwell Health, New York State's largest health care provider, is pioneering 3D printing in medicine in three key ways.
Can dirt help us fight off stress? Groundbreaking new research shows how.
- New research identifies a bacterium that helps block anxiety.
- Scientists say this can lead to drugs for first responders and soldiers, preventing PTSD and other mental issues.
- The finding builds on the hygiene hypothesis, first proposed in 1989.
Are modern societies trying too hard to be clean, at the detriment to public health? Scientists discovered that a microorganism living in dirt can actually be good for us, potentially helping the body to fight off stress. Harnessing its powers can lead to a "stress vaccine".
Researchers at the University of Colorado Boulder found that the fatty 10(Z)-hexadecenoic acid from the soil-residing bacterium Mycobacterium vaccae aids immune cells in blocking pathways that increase inflammation and the ability to combat stress.
The study's senior author and Integrative Physiology Professor Christopher Lowry described this fat as "one of the main ingredients" in the "special sauce" that causes the beneficial effects of the bacterium.
The finding goes hand in hand with the "hygiene hypothesis," initially proposed in 1989 by the British scientist David Strachan. He maintained that our generally sterile modern world prevents children from being exposed to certain microorganisms, resulting in compromised immune systems and greater incidences of asthma and allergies.
Contemporary research fine-tuned the hypothesis, finding that not interacting with so-called "old friends" or helpful microbes in the soil and the environment, rather than the ones that cause illnesses, is what's detrimental. In particular, our mental health could be at stake.
"The idea is that as humans have moved away from farms and an agricultural or hunter-gatherer existence into cities, we have lost contact with organisms that served to regulate our immune system and suppress inappropriate inflammation," explained Lowry. "That has put us at higher risk for inflammatory disease and stress-related psychiatric disorders."
University of Colorado Boulder
This is not the first study on the subject from Lowry, who published previous work showing the connection between being exposed to healthy bacteria and mental health. He found that being raised with animals and dust in a rural environment helps children develop more stress-proof immune systems. Such kids were also likely to be less at risk for mental illnesses than people living in the city without pets.
Lowry's other work also pointed out that the soil-based bacterium Mycobacterium vaccae acts like an antidepressant when injected into rodents. It alters their behavior and has lasting anti-inflammatory effects on the brain, according to the press release from the University of Colorado Boulder. Prolonged inflammation can lead to such stress-related disorders as PTSD.
The new study from Lowry and his team identified why that worked by pinpointing the specific fatty acid responsible. They showed that when the 10(Z)-hexadecenoic acid gets into cells, it works like a lock, attaching itself to the peroxisome proliferator-activated receptor (PPAR). This allows it to block a number of key pathways responsible for inflammation. Pre-treating the cells with the acid (or lipid) made them withstand inflammation better.
Lowry thinks this understanding can lead to creating a "stress vaccine" that can be given to people in high-stress jobs, like first responders or soldiers. The vaccine can prevent the psychological effects of stress.
What's more, this friendly bacterium is not the only potentially helpful organism we can find in soil.
"This is just one strain of one species of one type of bacterium that is found in the soil but there are millions of other strains in soils," said Lowry. "We are just beginning to see the tip of the iceberg in terms of identifying the mechanisms through which they have evolved to keep us healthy. It should inspire awe in all of us."
Check out the study published in the journal Psychopharmacology.
We were gaining three IQ points per decade for many, many years. Now, that's going backward. Could this explain some of our choices lately?
There's a new study out of Norway that indicates our—well, technically, their—IQs are shrinking, to the tune of about seven IQ points per generation.
An ordained Lama in a Tibetan Buddhist lineage, Lama Rod grew up a queer, black male within the black Christian church in the American south. Navigating all of these intersecting, evolving identities has led him to a life's work based on compassion for self and others.
- "What I'm interested in is deep, systematic change. What I understand now is that real change doesn't happen until change on the inside begins to happen."
- "Masculinity is not inherently toxic. Patriarchy is toxic. We have to let that energy go so we can stop forcing other people to do emotional labor for us."
SMARTER FASTER trademarks owned by The Big Think, Inc. All rights reserved.