U.S. Passports Are Now On Par With Mexico As Freedoms Are Cut
A new ranking of passports finds that U.S. citizens have had their freedoms severely curtailed by the coronavirus pandemic.
According to the latest Henley Passport Index, U.S. passports have access to 158 countries, 27 less than before coronavirus and largely due to the E.U.’s decision to temporarily ban travellers from the U.S.
“The U.S.’s dramatic decline in passport power means that Americans find themselves with a similar level of travel freedom usually available to citizens of Mexico,” says Henley & Partners, a citizenship firm which compiles the ranking. A Mexican passport allowed visa free travel to 158 countries before it too was banned by the E.U.
This means the U.S. passport ranks 25th in the world, a significant drop from 2014 when it topped the ranking.
“We see an emergence of a new global hierarchy in terms of mobility, with countries that have effectively managed the pandemic taking the lead, and countries that have handled it poorly falling behind,” says Christian Kaelin, chairman of Henley & Partners.
Almost every citizen in the world is now more restricted in global travel than before the coronavirus-pandemic. The exceptions are Japan, which tops the Index, South Korea and Uruguay, whose citizens are still able to travel to the same number of countries.
However, there is more upheaval to come, says Kaelin. The pandemic has shown us that countries can shut their borders to certain nationalities at a moment’s notice.
“Numerous governments will use epidemiological concerns as a justification for imposing new immigration restrictions and nationality-targeted travel bans,” says Prof. Dr. Yossi Harpaz, an assistant professor of Sociology at Tel Aviv University.
Further temporary bans could come into effect if there is a second wave of Covid-19 in certain countries, or if another health threat emerges, such as bubonic plague.
The Safest Country In The World
With international travel disrupted indefinitely, many with the means are looking at relocating to or becoming a citizenship of “safe” countries.
“We can expect places that are governed well and better equipped to deal with pandemics to become destinations people will seek to move to,” says Charles Phillips, a researcher and consultant for Oxford Business Group.
The safest of all countries is Switzerland, according to a ranking by the non-profit Deep Knowledge Group. The U.S. is ranked in 58th place and the U.K. 68th.
Knight Frank, a real estate consultancy, says it has seen a 61% increase in online enquiries for Swiss houses between April and mid-May compared to the same period in 2019.
Buyers are looking for places near to “Swiss mountains and lakes, given their accessibility, good broadband connectivity and first class healthcare system,” says Alex Koch de Gooreynd, Knight Frank’s head of Swiss sales.
However, the Swiss do not give away residency permits lightly, or cheaply. Tax liability may range from CHF 150,000 ($161,850) to over CHF 1 million ($1.08 million) per year for new residents.
But for U.S. citizens this is still unobtainable even if they can afford it. “The Swiss government has not announced a date when Switzerland will lift the current entry restrictions for U.S. citizens,” says the U.S. Embassy in Switzerland and Liechtenstein.
No amount of money, it seems, can buy you entry into some countries without the right passport.