In a surprise shake up, the United Arab Emirates now has the world's most powerful passport with access to the greatest number of countries visa-free.

The Passport Index, which tracks the value of such documents, said the Middle Eastern state added four new countries to its easy entry destinations at the beginning of the month. 167 to be exact.

This beat last year's number one passport, Singapore.

Singapore, which now shares the number two spot with Germany, was the first passport from Asia to top the passport power list.

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The black travel documents of New Zealand travellers come in at a respectable sixth place. In equal footing with holders of Icelandic and Maltese passports, travellers can enter 162 countries without a pre-arranged visa.

New Zealand enjoys visa free-travel to 112 countries, with automatic entry visas granted by 50 further countries on arrival.

The UAE's rise to the top of the care-free travel has come as a surprise to some. Last year the blue, eagle-emblazoned passports didn't even come in the top 10.

However, Dubai's leader Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum welcomed the news, tweeting: "Congratulations to the UAE and its people and big thanks to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation's teams."

Behind these rankings is the Canada-based global consultancy company Arton Capital. Its Passport Index bases power rankings on the cross-border access granted by each passport.

At the very bottom of the table, the least-powerful passports are Iraq and Afghanistan, granting visa-free access to only 32 and 29 countries respectively.

Passport power rankings

1. United Arab Emirates
2. Singapore, Germany
3. Denmark, Sweden, Finland, Luxembourg, France, Italy, Netherlands, Spain, Norway, South Korea and USA
4. Belgium, Austria, Japan, Greece, Portugal, Switzerland, Ireland and Canada and United Kingdom
5. Czech Republic and Hungary
6. Malta, Iceland, New Zealand
7. Malaysia, Slovenia, Poland, Lithuania, Slovakia, Latvia and Australia
8. Estonia
9. Romania and Bulgaria
10. Cyprus and Liechtenstein