Japan has entered 2019 with the world's most powerful passport, according to a new global ranking.

Japanese citizens can enter 190 countries around the world visa free, the Henley Passport Index revealed. This is great news for Japanese travellers planning an escape during the upcoming Rugby World Cup and next year's Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games. Two other Asian countries were named in joint second place – Singaporean and South Korean passport holders can visit 189.

The data for the rankings is sourced from the International Air Transport Association (IATA), which analyses how many countries a passport holder can enter visa-free or with a visa on arrival.

The New Zealand passport was named as the 10th most powerful with visa free access to 181 countries, sharing the spot with Australia and Iceland – a drop from eighth place in 2018.

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The New Zealand passport dropped from eighth to 10th place in the the Henley Passport Index. Photo / Mark Mitchell
The New Zealand passport dropped from eighth to 10th place in the the Henley Passport Index. Photo / Mark Mitchell

US and UK passports both dropped in the rankings dropping from fifth in 2018 to a joint sixth place – which Henley described as a "significant fall" from the first place position these countries held in 2015.

Germany and France retained their third place spot for another year, with a score of 188.

Denmark, Finland, Italy and Sweden were named in fourth place, with 187 countries, followed by Luxembourg and Spain in fifth on 186.

Austrian, Dutch, Norwegian, Portuguese and Swiss passports shared the number six spot with the US and UK.

The rest of the top ten was made up of Belgium, Canada, Greece and Ireland in seventh place, the Czech Republic in eighth and Malta in ninth.

Henley also singled out several passports that had risen significantly in the rankings over the years – such as China, which jumped from 85th with access to 51 destinations in 2017, to 69th in 2019 with nationals now able to access 74 countries around the world.

The United Arab Emirates also continued to rise in the rankings, holding the top spot in the Middle East at 22nd place, with its citizens able to access 164 countries visa free.

At the far end of the table, Iraq and Afghanistan remain at the bottom of the rankings, with access to just 30 visa-free destinations.

World's ten most powerful passports

1. Japan

2. Singapore, South Korea

3. France, Germany

4. Denmark, Finland, Italy, Sweden

5. Luxembourg, Spain

6. Austria, Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, Switzerland, UK, USA

7. Belgium, Canada, Greece, Ireland

8. Czech Republic

9. Malta

10. Australia, Iceland, New Zealand

Source: Henley Passport Index