Japan has taken the top spot on the Henley Passport Index, now offering its citizens visa-free or visa-on-arrival access to a record total of 189 destinations.
Following closely behind Japan are Singapore and Germany in joint second place, with 188 destinations accessible without a prior visa.
Third place is shared by six countries: one Asian (South Korea) and the rest European (Finland, France, Italy, Spain, and Sweden).
While Schengen Area countries have traditionally topped the index as a result of their open access to Europe, developed Asian nations have been able to secure equally high scores in recent years thanks to their strong international trade and diplomatic relations.
With close to 40 visa-waiver agreements signed by governments since the start of the year, passport-holders around the world go into the summer season with greater collective access than ever before.
Boosting this trend, Russia - which is usually off-limits to nationals of most countries - announced in April that visas would be waived for all travellers holding tickets to the June–July FIFA World Cup.
Nonetheless, the country has fallen from 45th to 47th position on the Henley Passport Index compared to quarter one, thus far unable to catch up to regional leaders Ukraine and Moldova, both of which have signed a number of visa agreements since the start of the year.
The UAE, in 23rd place, remains the fastest overall climber on the index, ascending 38 places since 2008.
The country has secured more new visa-waivers for its citizens in 2018 than any other jurisdiction in the world and is quickly closing in on the lead that Israel, in 19th place, has historically held within the Middle East region.
The US and the UK are tied in 4th place, along with Luxembourg, the Netherlands, and Portugal; the US has climbed one place compared to quarter one while the UK has remained stable.
Having gained access to the UAE, Oman, and Bosnia and Herzegovina this year, China has significantly strengthened its position on the ranking, climbing from 74th to 68th position since quarter one - although the country’s relatively low score of 70 visa-free or visa-on-arrival destinations means that it still cannot compete with north Asian high-performers Japan and South Korea.
Henley Passport Index, which is based on exclusive data from the International Air Transport Association, has recently been updated through extensive research to include eight new travel destinations.
According to Christian Kälin, croup chairman of Henley & Partners: “This addition means that the index now encompasses almost all of the world’s destinations for which travel information is publicly available, making it the most robust index of its kind.
“The Henley Passport Index surveys a total of 199 different passports against 227 different travel destinations, including countries, territories, and micro-states.
“The index is innovating the way we map and measure travel freedom, making it easier for individuals to understand where exactly they lie on the spectrum of global mobility.”