Singapore has retained its top spot as the South-east Asia country with the highest visa-free access, revealed the 2017 Visa Restrictions Index, an annual travel freedom ranking published by the global residence and citizenship advisory firm Henley & Partners in partnership with IATA.
Climbing one spot from last year, Singapore ranks fourth globally – its highest ranking on the index in 10 years – with visa-free access to 173 countries. The Lion City is followed by Malaysia (13th globally) and Brunei (23rd globally) in South-east Asia with visa-free accesss to 164 and 151 countries respectively.
The biggest climbers in the region were Laos (eighth regionally, 88th globally) and Myanmar (ninth regionally, 93rd globally) rising two spots each from last year. Laos added one country to take its visa-free access total to 48 while Myanmar brought down its total to 42, one less than last year.
In top places for North Asia are Japan (fifth worldwide/172 countries) and South Korea (seven worldwide/170 countries). Hong Kong, ranked third in North Asia, fell two spots to 22nd globally in the 2017 index, with visa-free access to 152 countries.
China comes in sixth in North Asia, but ranks 85th globally, with visa-free access to 51 countries, representing a rise of two places. Macau was the biggest climber in North Asia, adding four countries to take its visa-free access total to 127, putting it in fifth place in North Asia.
Overall, Germany maintains its top spot on the index for the fourth consecutive year, with access to 176 countries in total. Sweden remains in second place with 175 countries, and Denmark, Finland, Italy, Spain and the US jointly rank third, with their nationals enjoying access to 174 countries without a visa.
The UK, however, slipped down yet another position this year to fourth, having shared first place with Germany for three consecutive years from 2013-2015.
According to Dominic Volek, managing partner of Henley & Partners Singapore and head South-east Asia, the changing geopolitical climate – such as Brexit and US president Donald Trump’s travel ban – could affect global mobility and change the rankings over the next 12 months.