So many aspects of our lives are defined for us before we are even born. What our ethnicity will be, our nationality, our religious and political influences and even our societal class are all waiting for us as we enter this world. We all begin our lives with either an advantage or disadvantage that is completely out of our control. It is up to us to educate ourselves on how we acknowledge and live with the life we were handed.
Privilege. It comes in many forms. Race, class, gender, sexual orientation, religion and ability are all examples of the ones that define us. In the past few years we have all become hyper aware of the dangers of racial privilege. Another type of privilege that is less discussed, yet potentially dangerous as well, is: passport privilege.
So, what exactly is passport privilege?
“Passport privilege” is the ability to be able to travel throughout the world freely based on the passport you possess.
Depending on which country you hold a passport in, your passport’s power will either be determined as strong or weak. The type of passport you hold dictates your ability to travel to each individual country and sovereign nation. The power in your passport is determined, ultimately, by the number of destinations you can travel to visa-free (or by visa-on-arrival.) Without this ability you must apply for a visa in advance. Obtaining this visa can take weeks or months and consists of: applications, collecting documentations, scheduling appointments, in-person interviews at the closest embassy, various fees and even writing a “letter of request” in some countries.
According to the “Henley Passport Index,” here are the top passports to hold for 2022:
*Data is provided exclusively by the International Air Transport Association (IATA)*
- Japan, Singapore (192 destinations visa-free)
- Germany, South Korea (190)
- Finland, Italy, Luxembourg, Spain (189)
- Austria, Denmark, France, Netherlands, Sweden (188)
- Ireland, Portugal (187)
- Belgium, New Zealand, Norway, Switzerland, United Kingdom, United States (186)
- Australia, Canada, Czech Republic, Greece, Malta (185)
- Poland, Hungary (183)
- Lithuania, Slovakia (182)
- Estonia, Latvia, Slovenia (181)
Additionally, here are the world’s weakest passports for 2022:
104. North Korea (39 destinations visa-free)
105. Nepal and Palestinian territories (37)
106. Somalia (34)
107. Yemen (33)
108. Pakistan (31)
109. Syria (29)
110. Iraq (28)
111. Afghanistan (26)
Having a strong passport is a privilege most people cannot fathom living without. Throughout the height of the coronavirus pandemic, however, those holding notoriously strong passports had their first taste of life without it. While these bans and restrictions from other countries were temporary, for those with weaker passports this is an everyday reality.
Countries and developing nations that are struggling or recovering from economic and political instabilities tend to have weaker passports. The option of moving to a different country with more stability, to have a chance at a better life, is not a realistic option for many people. Those holding weaker passports simply do not have the same starting point as those with strong passports. This places these citizens at an unfair disadvantage and can make breaking the generational cycles they were born into impossible.
Having a strong passport can, quite literally, open up a world of possibilities. The ability to travel freely, move to other countries and even your status in the world are some of the many advantages given.
We are so heavily judged by what nation we come from, even though this is a choice that none of us have freely made.
Most importantly, passports can be a pathway of protection for those who find themselves in a refugee status due to war or natural disasters. The strength of a passport can directly affect one’s ability to find refuge in neighboring countries. Unfortunately, those with weaker passports are more likely to be turned away and treated inhumanely in comparison to those with passports from allies and stronger nations. Your passport can truly mean life or death in the most crucial moments. How we chose to welcome and accept refugees in these times says more about the decency of a nation than the power of the passport it produces.
Time and time again it has been proven that people are not their government. This privilege, like many others, proves that we do not have an equal start within the human race. Refusing to acknowledge this inhibits any progress to be made and can be potentially dangerous. But what we can control, is our compassion towards others and how we come together in times of need, regardless of what color passport we hold in our hands.