Powerless passports and vicious visas: how do your papers rank in the Middle East?

Published May 12th, 2015 - 11:14 GMT

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Going on vacation or a business trip could be a good or bad thing according to the Henley & Partners Visa Restriction Index figures, which were released this month. Passport holders from Middle Eastern countries have some of the weakest travel documents with Arab states ranking in the last ten positions. The world is your oyster? Think again!

It’s not all closed doors though. The UAE managed to hit 34th position out of 94 countries, according to the study because Emirati passport holders are now allowed to travel in the European Union’s Schengen zone without a visa. Despite the UAE’s smooth sailing, Middle Eastern nations were far away from the winning place, held by the likes Sweden and the States. Continue reading below »

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With the worst passport in the Middle East, and second worst in the world after Afghanistan, Iraqis can only get into 31 countries without a visa. So unless you want to travel to Yemen, Ecuador or remote islands in the Pacific, papers from Iraq will probably end up being more of a hindrance than a help.
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Image 1 of 12:  1 / 12With the worst passport in the Middle East, and second worst in the world after Afghanistan, Iraqis can only get into 31 countries without a visa. So unless you want to travel to Yemen, Ecuador or remote islands in the Pacific, papers from Iraq will probably end up being more of a hindrance than a help.

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Palestinian passports are some of the newest out there, having only been distributed since 1995. Before that, many Palestinians from the occupied West Bank held temporary Jordanian passports. Yet even with papers, it's hard getting in and out of the country, with Israeli-controlled borders and only 35 countries accepting them visa-free.
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Image 2 of 12:  2 / 12Palestinian passports are some of the newest out there, having only been distributed since 1995. Before that, many Palestinians from the occupied West Bank held temporary Jordanian passports. Yet even with papers, it's hard getting in and out of the country, with Israeli-controlled borders and only 35 countries accepting them visa-free.

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But although it doesn’t allow you to travel very far, a Palestinian passport is a powerful document with a controversial history. Since the Palestinian Authority started issuing them after the Oslo Accords, their use by other countries has been seen as a tentative step towards recognizing a Palestinian state.
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Image 3 of 12:  3 / 12But although it doesn’t allow you to travel very far, a Palestinian passport is a powerful document with a controversial history. Since the Palestinian Authority started issuing them after the Oslo Accords, their use by other countries has been seen as a tentative step towards recognizing a Palestinian state.

Enlarge
A Syrian passport won’t leave you roaming the globe either, being ranked 89th out of the 94 countries in the Visa Restriction Index. With many Syrians now living outside of the country, some may seek to apply for citizenship in their host countries, with Turkey seeming the most likely option.
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Image 4 of 12:  4 / 12A Syrian passport won’t leave you roaming the globe either, being ranked 89th out of the 94 countries in the Visa Restriction Index. With many Syrians now living outside of the country, some may seek to apply for citizenship in their host countries, with Turkey seeming the most likely option.

Enlarge
With the country descending into conflict and most embassies shutting up shop, the foreigners have left Yemen fast. But with a passport that is ranked only one above North Korea's at number 85, it's far from easy for Yemenis to emigrate elsewhere.
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Image 5 of 12:  5 / 12With the country descending into conflict and most embassies shutting up shop, the foreigners have left Yemen fast. But with a passport that is ranked only one above North Korea's at number 85, it's far from easy for Yemenis to emigrate elsewhere.

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Jordanians are pretty disgruntled with their papers, that rank 84th in the world. So whilst the capital might be full of American expats, Ammanis will have a hard time getting the green light for a trip to the States.
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Image 6 of 12:  6 / 12Jordanians are pretty disgruntled with their papers, that rank 84th in the world. So whilst the capital might be full of American expats, Ammanis will have a hard time getting the green light for a trip to the States.

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Turkish nationals can get places, with 100 countries allowing visa-free entry. But the passport is going to cost you, being the most expensive in the world at around $260. Government workers and their families can get a special green passport however, which not only is much cheaper, but also grants special access to much of Europe.
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Image 7 of 12:  7 / 12Turkish nationals can get places, with 100 countries allowing visa-free entry. But the passport is going to cost you, being the most expensive in the world at around $260. Government workers and their families can get a special green passport however, which not only is much cheaper, but also grants special access to much of Europe.

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Start packing! A passport from Qatar is handy for Gulf business, giving you freedom of movement in Gulf Cooperation Council states. It is also the second best Arab state for travelling without a visa, getting you into 75 countries.
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Image 8 of 12:  8 / 12Start packing! A passport from Qatar is handy for Gulf business, giving you freedom of movement in Gulf Cooperation Council states. It is also the second best Arab state for travelling without a visa, getting you into 75 countries.

Enlarge
We have a winner! With the most powerful passport in the Middle East, Emiratis can travel to many countries easily. As of last week, it’s the only Arab state that can travel visa-free in European Schengen states. And on top of all that, it’s also the cheapest in the world, costing around $14.
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Image 9 of 12:  9 / 12We have a winner! With the most powerful passport in the Middle East, Emiratis can travel to many countries easily. As of last week, it’s the only Arab state that can travel visa-free in European Schengen states. And on top of all that, it’s also the cheapest in the world, costing around $14.

Enlarge
Afghanistan remains one of the world's most troubled hotspots and ranked last in the Index. Passport holders can only travel to a mere 28 countries visa-free, according to the stats.
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Image 10 of 12:  10 / 12Afghanistan remains one of the world's most troubled hotspots and ranked last in the Index. Passport holders can only travel to a mere 28 countries visa-free, according to the stats.

Enlarge
Sweden, Finland, Germany, UK and USA hold the most powerful passports in the world, with free access to 174 countries. So if you can get your hands on one of these, you'll soon be jet-setting around the globe.
Reduce

Image 11 of 12:  11 / 12Sweden, Finland, Germany, UK and USA hold the most powerful passports in the world, with free access to 174 countries. So if you can get your hands on one of these, you'll soon be jet-setting around the globe.

Enlarge
Here's the world ranking of the MENA states, with their position out of 94. Gulf states dominate the winning ranks, with only Turkey to compete against. But most MidEast countries have a fair way to climb before getting anywhere near the international top score of 174.
Reduce

Image 12 of 12:  12 / 12Here's the world ranking of the MENA states, with their position out of 94. Gulf states dominate the winning ranks, with only Turkey to compete against. But most MidEast countries have a fair way to climb before getting anywhere near the international top score of 174.

Enlarge

1

With the worst passport in the Middle East, and second worst in the world after Afghanistan, Iraqis can only get into 31 countries without a visa. So unless you want to travel to Yemen, Ecuador or remote islands in the Pacific, papers from Iraq will probably end up being more of a hindrance than a help.

Image 1 of 12With the worst passport in the Middle East, and second worst in the world after Afghanistan, Iraqis can only get into 31 countries without a visa. So unless you want to travel to Yemen, Ecuador or remote islands in the Pacific, papers from Iraq will probably end up being more of a hindrance than a help.

2

Palestinian passports are some of the newest out there, having only been distributed since 1995. Before that, many Palestinians from the occupied West Bank held temporary Jordanian passports. Yet even with papers, it's hard getting in and out of the country, with Israeli-controlled borders and only 35 countries accepting them visa-free.

Image 2 of 12Palestinian passports are some of the newest out there, having only been distributed since 1995. Before that, many Palestinians from the occupied West Bank held temporary Jordanian passports. Yet even with papers, it's hard getting in and out of the country, with Israeli-controlled borders and only 35 countries accepting them visa-free.

3

But although it doesn’t allow you to travel very far, a Palestinian passport is a powerful document with a controversial history. Since the Palestinian Authority started issuing them after the Oslo Accords, their use by other countries has been seen as a tentative step towards recognizing a Palestinian state.

Image 3 of 12But although it doesn’t allow you to travel very far, a Palestinian passport is a powerful document with a controversial history. Since the Palestinian Authority started issuing them after the Oslo Accords, their use by other countries has been seen as a tentative step towards recognizing a Palestinian state.

4

A Syrian passport won’t leave you roaming the globe either, being ranked 89th out of the 94 countries in the Visa Restriction Index. With many Syrians now living outside of the country, some may seek to apply for citizenship in their host countries, with Turkey seeming the most likely option.

Image 4 of 12A Syrian passport won’t leave you roaming the globe either, being ranked 89th out of the 94 countries in the Visa Restriction Index. With many Syrians now living outside of the country, some may seek to apply for citizenship in their host countries, with Turkey seeming the most likely option.

5

With the country descending into conflict and most embassies shutting up shop, the foreigners have left Yemen fast. But with a passport that is ranked only one above North Korea's at number 85, it's far from easy for Yemenis to emigrate elsewhere.

Image 5 of 12With the country descending into conflict and most embassies shutting up shop, the foreigners have left Yemen fast. But with a passport that is ranked only one above North Korea's at number 85, it's far from easy for Yemenis to emigrate elsewhere.

6

Jordanians are pretty disgruntled with their papers, that rank 84th in the world. So whilst the capital might be full of American expats, Ammanis will have a hard time getting the green light for a trip to the States.

Image 6 of 12Jordanians are pretty disgruntled with their papers, that rank 84th in the world. So whilst the capital might be full of American expats, Ammanis will have a hard time getting the green light for a trip to the States.

7

Turkish nationals can get places, with 100 countries allowing visa-free entry. But the passport is going to cost you, being the most expensive in the world at around $260. Government workers and their families can get a special green passport however, which not only is much cheaper, but also grants special access to much of Europe.

Image 7 of 12Turkish nationals can get places, with 100 countries allowing visa-free entry. But the passport is going to cost you, being the most expensive in the world at around $260. Government workers and their families can get a special green passport however, which not only is much cheaper, but also grants special access to much of Europe.

8

Start packing! A passport from Qatar is handy for Gulf business, giving you freedom of movement in Gulf Cooperation Council states. It is also the second best Arab state for travelling without a visa, getting you into 75 countries.

Image 8 of 12Start packing! A passport from Qatar is handy for Gulf business, giving you freedom of movement in Gulf Cooperation Council states. It is also the second best Arab state for travelling without a visa, getting you into 75 countries.

9

We have a winner! With the most powerful passport in the Middle East, Emiratis can travel to many countries easily. As of last week, it’s the only Arab state that can travel visa-free in European Schengen states. And on top of all that, it’s also the cheapest in the world, costing around $14.

Image 9 of 12We have a winner! With the most powerful passport in the Middle East, Emiratis can travel to many countries easily. As of last week, it’s the only Arab state that can travel visa-free in European Schengen states. And on top of all that, it’s also the cheapest in the world, costing around $14.

10

Afghanistan remains one of the world's most troubled hotspots and ranked last in the Index. Passport holders can only travel to a mere 28 countries visa-free, according to the stats.

Image 10 of 12Afghanistan remains one of the world's most troubled hotspots and ranked last in the Index. Passport holders can only travel to a mere 28 countries visa-free, according to the stats.

11

Sweden, Finland, Germany, UK and USA hold the most powerful passports in the world, with free access to 174 countries. So if you can get your hands on one of these, you'll soon be jet-setting around the globe.

Image 11 of 12Sweden, Finland, Germany, UK and USA hold the most powerful passports in the world, with free access to 174 countries. So if you can get your hands on one of these, you'll soon be jet-setting around the globe.

12

Here's the world ranking of the MENA states, with their position out of 94. Gulf states dominate the winning ranks, with only Turkey to compete against. But most MidEast countries have a fair way to climb before getting anywhere near the international top score of 174.

Image 12 of 12Here's the world ranking of the MENA states, with their position out of 94. Gulf states dominate the winning ranks, with only Turkey to compete against. But most MidEast countries have a fair way to climb before getting anywhere near the international top score of 174.

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Here’s how Middle Eastern countries ranked, leaving them stranded at the bottom!

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