articles-a-short-history-of-passports

In October 2017, the tiny nation of Singapore topped the list of the most powerful passports in the world. This is the first time an Asian nation has headed the rankings, and, according to Phillipe May from Arton Capital who compile the list, it is “testament of Singapore’s inclusive diplomatic relations and effective foreign policy”

The passport index is an online tool that ranks the world’s passports by their cross-border ease of access. The Index is very closely contested with 22 countries tying for places in the top 5 and they all allow visa free access into more than 150 countries but thanks to the recent decision by Paraguay to remove visa requirements for those carrying Singapore passports, citizens of Singapore can now visit 159 countries with ease.

Whilst some Western countries have started to take a harder approach to border policies, Asian countries have tended to embrace wider foreign policy efforts and so move higher into the rankings. South Korea and Japan have maintained a place in the top 5 since for two years running and are now closely followed in sixth place by Malaysia.1

In today’s world mobility across borders is an important issue and sees more and more people investing thousands of pounds to obtain second passports to secure better opportunities and security for their families. Testament to this is the recent surge by Britons clamouring to get an Irish passport in the wake of the Brexit result, desperate to retain a link with the European Union guaranteeing the much-valued freedom of movement between member states with no questions asked, no visa applications and no restrictions.

But despite the as yet unconfirmed visa requirements that may arise as a result of Brexit, in 4th place, a UK passport is still one of the most sought after passports in the world. So why should this little burgundy paper book that we hold through sheer good fortune and no doubt take for granted, be considered one of our most valued possessions and something that we should treasure above all other personal effects?

We should remember that some countries still make it impossible for their citizens to even obtain passports let alone leave their home nation. Up until just a few years ago Cuba wouldn’t allow citizens to leave without first obtaining Exit Permits, which at a cost of around 15 times the annual salary made it virtually impossible.

One good reason for treasuring your British passport is the 268 British Embassies and Consulates in more than 170 countries meaning that in theory at least, you will be looked after in the event of any troubles. A British passport makes us newsworthy, so in the unlikely and extreme example of us going missing, we can expect prompt and effective action to recover us. In short, holding a British passport allows access to one of the finest international support networks in the world.

Another good reason is a positive legacy from our colonial footprint across the world – the Commonwealth. The large majority of this collection of 53 sovereign states affords favourable or visa-free entry conditions for British citizens meaning easy entry to countries including Malaysia, South Africa and Canada.

A British passport means you belong to a Country with a stable Government and a strong and reliable currency. In a period of world financial crisis the UK economy continues to show resilience and this combination of security and political stability contributes to the Country’s high rankings in both the Human Development Index2, a composite statistic of life expectancy, education and income per capita, and the High Quality of Life Index3, which measures the general well being of individuals and societies based on everything from physical health, family, education, employment and religious beliefs to name but a few.

This small Island, only 80th in the world in terms of surface area and 22nd in population size, boasts the 7th largest economy in the world and guarantees easy access to 156 other countries. It provides its subjects with free education, free healthcare and a benefits system which, whilst not perfect, strives to look after its citizens in most eventualities. Despite its political turmoil of the last 12 months, the UK continues to be one of the most attractive places to live and to do business.

Look after that little burgundy book. Keep it safe, as one day it could be your life line.

1Full listing at https://www.passportindex.org/byRank.php

2http://hdr.undp.org/en/content/human-development-index-hdi

3 https://www.numbeo.com/quality-of-life/

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *