The New Zealand passport has held on to its status in the world power rankings, as other countries feel the brunt of the coronavirus pandemic.

Covid 19 has punished countries' poor handling of the crisis in the soft power rankings - as the latest Henley and Partners Passport Index rankings has revealed.

Japan is in the top position, granting holders access to 191 countries visa free. While borders of many nations might be closed to non-essential travel, the ranking shows that Japan is still the top destination that the world wants to do business with.

Singapore is in second place for the most powerful travel document, opening doors in 190 countries.

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Just behind Japan is Germany and South Korea in joint third, which grant access to 189 countries each.

New Zealand remains at 8th place with 184 countries offering visa free travel. This is unchanged from the pre-Covid power rankings in April. It's actually an increase from the January 2020 rankings - which saw New Zealand in 9th place, joint with Australia.

Henley and Partners noted that this is an exceptional result, reflecting the country's handling of the health crisis, saying that elsewhere travel restrictions and perceived risk of travel has led to "extraordinary shifts in passport power".

Passports suffering a dramatic fall from grace include the US passport, which just 5 years ago topped the list.

In spite of inflamatory immigration rhetoric, the Mexican passport is more widely accepted than the US. Photo / AP
In spite of inflamatory immigration rhetoric, the Mexican passport is more widely accepted than the US. Photo / AP

"The US passport usually ranked within the top 10 on the Henley Passport Index," said the report, which listed 185 countries granting visa-free access to American passport holders.

"However, under the current EU ban, the picture looks starkly different. US nationals now have roughly the same level of travel freedom as citizens of Uruguay (included on the EU's list of welcome countries), which ranks 28th on the index."

Significantly, this listing places the US passport below that of neighbouring Mexico (25).

The irony of recent remarks by president incumbent Donald Trump regarding Mexican immigrants was not lost on report readers - given Mexican passport holders now have greater access to other countries than US citizens.

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The biggest factor in the 20 place fall of the passport was that the absence of the US from the EU's list of 15 "safe" countries, earlier this month. The closure of the European travel zone to Americans was described by Henley and Partners as a "stinging rebuke for its poor handling of the pandemic."

Brazil and Russia, which have recorded some of the highest Covid 19 infection rates, have also suffered in terms of passport rankings.

Brazil's passport dropped 17 places to 36th while passport holders from the Russian Federation (51), with access to 118 countries.

Both countries were excluded from the EU safe list, which included Canada (9) and New Zealand (8). This list which was announced in June was made up of countries which the European Council said had significantly low enough infection rates to consider "safe" travel arrangements.

However, the access to the EU bloc was not the most important factor in passport power.
Both of the top ranking passports, Singapore and Japan, were not included in the safe destinations.

"This latest decision by the EU indicates that there is more upheaval to come. Look at the US passport, for example – in 2014, it held the number one spot in the world on our index, but US nationals currently have far less travel freedom than most citizens of other wealthy, industrialised nations and even of some less developed nations, being effectively locked out of Europe" said Dr Christian H Kaelin, founder of the power rankings.

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Dr Kaelin predicted that pandemic response and success in containing infections would be the most important factor in future power rankings, forming a "new global hierarchy" for international mobility.

While New Zealand's international borders remain closed, its appearance on several "safe travel" lists including that of the EU and UK have kept its influence high.

New Zealand's passport holds its value in the top 10, an effective response to Covid 19 played a large part in this.

The Passport Power Rankings 2020 by visa free countries

1. Japan, 191

2. Singapore, 190

3. Germany, South Korea, 189

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4. Finland, Italy, Luxembourg, Spain, 188

5. Austria, Denmark, 187

6. France, Ireland, Netherlands, Portugal, Sweden, 186

7. Belgium, Norway, Switzerland, United Kingdom, United States, 185

8. Czech Republic, Greece, Malta, New Zealand, 184

9. Australia, Canada, 183

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10. Hungary, 182

*not accounting for covid travel restrictions