Passport Power Shift: Australia Tumbles While UAE Soars In New World Rankings

Jetset jostling.

Passport Power Shift: Australia Tumbles While UAE Soars In New World Rankings

Image: FEM

Renowned consulting firm Nomad Capitalist has unveiled its latest rankings for the most desirable passports to hold in 2023. Australian travellers have been left disheartened as their once highly-regarded passports slid down the list, but many others have plenty to be pleased about.

The world of air travel may be beleaguered by delays and sub-standard seating, but holding a passport is still a privilege in spite of all of this. Why? Because the unfettered ability to see the world or even move abroad can be one of life’s greatest pleasures.

Sadly, however, not all passports are created equal, and newly released rankings from Nomad Capitalist have made this all too clear. While some nations have soared to the top of this year’s listings, others have tumbled, and some remain stubbornly stuck.

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Before we get into the winners and losers, here’s a quick breakdown of the factors that went into deciding the rankings. The 199 countries included on the list were ranked according to the following factors, each of which was weighted according to its relative importance: visa-free travel opportunities, taxation of citizens, dual citizenship possibilities, national perception and personal freedom.

The real winner of this year’s rankings is the United Arab Emirates (UAE), which claimed the coveted top position. The UAE’s rise to prominence is nothing short of extraordinary with an average score of 110.5. To put this into perspective, the lowest-ranking country, Afghanistan, has a mere 26.5 average, making its passport over four times less powerful than that of the UAE.

The UAE’s ascent to the top spot is even more remarkable when considering its historic rankings of 35th in 2022 and 38th in 2021. How did it fly up the rankings so fast? Impressive visa-free travel privileges to 181 countries and an absence of income taxes both play a part.

Here’s a full breakdown of the winners. Image: Nomad Capitalism

Perhaps most importantly, however, are the UAE’s ambitious infrastructure projects that have been undertaken alongside its growing prominence as a global travel and business hub, positioning itself as a force to be reckoned with on the global stage.

Australia, on the other hand, has been somewhat less fortunately ranked. Tumbling from 32nd last year to 38th in 2023, the country’s overall score dropped from 107.5 to 101. This decline can be solely attributed solely to reduced visa-free travel opportunities, which decreased from 185 to 172 and had, until recently, been its real strong suit. The scores for the remaining four areas remained unchanged from last year.

While Australia may have slipped in the passport rankings, it’s important to remember but all too easy to forget that a passport is not the sole determinant of a nation’s wider desirability. With stunning natural landscapes, vibrant cities, and high standard of living, Australia continues to attract travellers from around the world, regardless of its passport ranking.

This idea swings the other way too: the UAE’s less-than-desirable human rights record doesn’t seem to affect its ranking, though it undoubtedly affects the willingness of many to travel and live in the Middle Eastern state. It also calls into question the wider parameters of the rankings, which seem to openly prioritise wealth management and protection over inclusivity, fairness, and equal opportunity.

Great tax laws, better views: Ireland surges in the rankings. Image: CNN

No other Middle Eastern passports made it to the top 20 in the rankings, while Luxembourg — which held the top position in 2022 — dropped to second place in 2023. Switzerland claimed the third spot and Ireland — renowned for its low corporate tax rates — secured fourth place.

On a brighter note, Australia’s only and favourite neighbour, New Zealand, fared significantly better in the rankings, securing a joint eighth position alongside Sweden and Finland, with a healthy rating of 106. Meanwhile, the United Kingdom slipped from 26th place last year to 30th earning an overall score of 102.5 and the US ranked an uninspiring 43rd.

The decline in rankings for traditional powerhouses like the United Kingdom and the United States plays into longstanding questions about their global influence. As geopolitical dynamics shift and new players emerge on the world stage — China and India being the obvious examples — Western countries are struggling to maintain their standing and attractiveness to international travellers.

That’s all for now. If you need me, I’ll be down at the Irish embassy, seeing if I can finally put that great-great-grandrelative to good use…