According to the Henley Passport Index, the Australian passport is one of the most desirable in the world. We are in seventh place, along with Canada, the Czech Republic, Greece and Malta. Published annually, the Henley Passport Index is a popularity contest for passports. Selected from information provided by the International Air Travel Association, the index tells you how many countries will allow their citizens to visit without requiring a visa application before entry. At a glance, the index tells you how much the rest of the world likes you as well as how your government is perceived by the world at large, and there are some surprises in the mix.
Australia is one notch below New Zealand, in sixth place alongside Belgium, Norway, Switzerland and the USA. We’re not too late. The only country that extends visa-free access to New Zealanders but not Australians in 2022 is Chile. The reason is that Chileans are not eligible for an Electronic Travel Authority (ETA) to visit Australia, the most favored nation’s gateway for aspiring visitors. Instead, they must apply for a visitor visa, which costs $380. A visa for Australians visiting Chile costs $US225 ($A358), known in the industry as a reciprocity fee. New Zealanders, however, have visa-free entry into Chile at no cost. A bilateral visa waiver agreement allows citizens of one country to enter the other as tourists for up to three months.
If Australia were to lower the visa fee for Chileans, Chile would likely respond in kind. Until recently, US citizens paid US$160 (US$A255) to visit Chile, but this fee was dropped when Chile signed a bilateral visa waiver agreement with the US. Chileans can now apply for an ESTA visa waiver for the US, the same as Australians, which costs just $US21 ($A33). British passport holders also enter Chile with just a wave of their passport. They have been exempt from Chile’s visa fees for many years since the UK government gave Chileans a warm welcome as thanks for the Pinochet regime’s support during the Falklands War with Argentina.
Japan tops the 2022 Henley Passport Index. Educated, law-abiding, financially solvent, and unlikely to pass the welcome time, the Japanese are the visitors everyone wants. Its passport holders can enter visa-free in 193 countries. Japan is interesting, as reciprocity is out of the question. All foreign nationals currently need a visa to enter Japan. This is due to the suspension of all visa waivers due to the coronavirus. Before the pandemic, citizens of certain countries could enter Japan for tourist purposes without having to apply for a visa. If Japan maintains its tough stance, other nations would like to rebalance the relationship with visa requirements for Japanese visitors, but none of that is likely to happen.
After Japan, next in line are Singapore and South Korea, whose citizens can enter 192 countries without a visa. China ranks 69th, its citizens can enter 80 countries without applying for a visa, which must be annoying since Taiwan is ranked 34th, Taiwanese passport holders can enter 145 countries. Ukrainians rank only one place with entry into 144 countries, eight more than when the index was compiled in 2021. Meanwhile, Russians can enter just 119 countries without a visa. The difference lies in the ease of access to European countries. Ukrainian passport holders can travel around Europe without needing to obtain a visa in advance, Russians cannot.
Totalitarian regimes get the thumbs down. Myanmar is 102nd on the list, Cuba is 85th, Turkmenistan is 96th, Iran is 107th. At the bottom of the index, Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan fill the bottom three positions, their passport holders can enter less than 30 countries without applying for a visa.
Visas can also be used to send a message between governments, and it’s not very subtle. For example, 156 nationalities are eligible to apply online for an Indian electronic visa, an eVisa. It’s a simple process and Australians, along with citizens of France, Peru and Russia, can apply, but not British passport holders. This is a recent change. India suspended its eVisa application system during the pandemic, but when the system restarted in 2022, the UK was not included in the list of eligible countries. It’s retaliation. The British government requires Indian passport holders to apply for a standard visitor visa, which costs £100 ($A179), and attend an interview. A visa for UK citizens to visit India costs £72 ($A129) according to VFS Global, and they must also attend an interview. Australians pay a similar fee, but no interviews. According to government sources, the reason the UK makes it difficult for Indian citizens to visit is that they are the nationality most likely to stay longer than welcome. This has disoriented Britons planning to visit India and scares some of the UK’s outbound tourism industry as its citizens are among India’s most devoted fans.
See also: Caution: Simple mistakes that can deport you
See also: ‘I actually cried’: The little passport problem that can ruin your vacation