French passport is named one of six best for world travel

The ranking counts how many destinations the passport holder can travel to ‘visa-free’

A view of someone holding a French passport
A passport from France is one of only six that allows the bearer visa-free travel to 194 countries (Britain comes in joint fourth place, with 191 countries)
Published Last updated

A passport from France is one of the top passports for travelling worldwide allowing the bearer to travel to 194 countries without a visa, a new ranking has found.

The Henley Passport Index 2024, from the Henley Global Mobility Report January 2024, put passports from France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Singapore, and Spain on the joint top spot (out of 104 places), with each allowing the bearer to travel to 194 countries visa-free (out of 227 possible destinations).

In joint second place were Finland, South Korea, and Sweden at 193 countries, and in joint third were Austria, Denmark, Ireland, and the Netherlands, at 192.

A UK passport comes in joint fourth, along with Belgium, Luxembourg, Norway, and Portugal (at 191 countries).

Australia and New Zealand both ranked in 6th place (189 countries each), while the US and Canada both ranked in 7th place (188 countries each).

The least powerful passport was Afghanistan, with just 28 countries; followed by Syria (29), Iraq (31), Pakistan (34), and Yemen at 100th place out of 104, with 35 countries allowing access.

Methodology and criteria

The Henley Passport Index is compiled by international residency consultancy Henley & Partners. It uses data from the past 18 years - including from the International Air Transport Authority (IATA), open-source online data, and what it calls “extensive in-house research”.

It reviews 199 passports and considers their access to 227 possible travel destinations.

The ranking scores each travel destination with a ‘1’ if a visa is not required for passport holders from a country or territory. The same score is given if passport holders are able to easily get a visa or permit on arrival, or can use an electronic travel authority (ETA) or similar visa waiver system.

A zero score is given if passport holders need pre-departure government approval for a visa on arrival.

The index also assumes that the passport in question is valid, and ‘normal’ (rather than diplomatic, emergency, or temporary). It also refers to a full adult passport, and assumes that the passport holder meets all the requirements for entry to the country - including documentation, permissions, and necessary vaccinations.

It also terms ‘entry’ for a short stay, rather than several months or more, or a visit for tourist reasons.

What constitutes a visa?

Henley & Partners defines countries that require electronic travel authorisations (ETAs) as ‘visa-free’.

This is as opposed to electronic visas (e-Visas), which are considered to be a form of visa requirement.

This is partly because ETAs are typically only usable by passport holders who are otherwise exempt from requiring a visa.

The group defines an ETA (rather than an e-Visa) as visa waivers that “tend to be processed automatically and within minutes or hours”, and require minimal details and not much effort, cost, or prior planning to obtain. They are also usually approved.

In contrast, e-Visas “tend to be reviewed manually by government officials and processed within days or weeks”, require more details, may be expensive, and must be requested far in advance. There is also a greater risk that these may be denied. Any paper documents of this kind are also considered to be visas.

What about the new EU and UK ETAs?

Henley & Partners also stated that the ETAs set to be introduced by the European Union and UK will not be considered as e-Visas, and countries that require them will therefore be considered ‘visa-free’ for the purposes of its passport ranking.

Related articles

‘How I went about applying for French citizenship’
Can a person get French citizenship if their parents were French?
When my passport expires must I also renew my French carte de séjour?
Why are French passport and ID card applications taking so long?