Hongkongers can visit 150 countries without having to get a visa in advance
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The United Arab Emirates moved to No 1 in this year’s rankings, ahead of Singapore and South Korea
Hongkongers hold the world’s 13th most powerful passport, up five places from its position last year on an index gauging the “power” of passports of various countries and territories, made available this week.
Within Asia, the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region passport was placed sixth, according to the report. It was behind those from the United Arab Emirates (UAE) – which was also the world number one in the 2018 index – Singapore and South Korea, which were ranked second and third in Asia.
Singaporean and German passports shared the number two spot on the world’s list in 2018.
The Hong Kong passport was ranked 18th in the 2017 index.
The index, compiled by the Canada-based global financial advisory firm Arton Capital, ranks the passports of 193 United Nations member countries and six other territories by counting the number of countries each passport can access without an advance visa. The six territories include Taiwan, Macau, Hong Kong, Kosovo, the Palestinian Territories and the Vatican.
Data is taken from publicly available sources, according to the firm.
According to the 2018 report, the Hong Kong passport allows holders to gain entry to 150 countries without having to obtain a visa in advance, including 115 countries which are visa-free and another 35 that offer visas on arrival.
But this figure deviates from the Hong Kong Immigration Department’s official tally, which indicated visa-free or visa-on-arrival access to 163 countries and territories as of October 12 this year.
But information on the department’s official website also noted that in some cases, a number of conditions apply. The index researchers did not specify if applications with conditions attached were not counted.
Another passport commonly held by Hong Kong people born before the 1997 handover – the British National (Overseas) or BNO passport – is exempt from visa arrangements for 118 countries and territories.
Hong Kong legislator Yiu Si-wing, who represents the tourism industry, said he was pleased with Hong Kong’s ranking. “It is probably the hard work of the Hong Kong government in promoting the Hong Kong passport overseas,” said Yiu.
He hoped the government would step up negotiations with more countries to allow visa-free access of Hong Kong travellers. “It is certainly helpful to the development of Hong Kong tourism if more countries allow Hong Kong passport holders visa-free privilege,” added Yiu.
But he said he appreciated it would be difficult for Hong Kong to strike any visa-free deal with some countries, such as the United States. “America has anti-terrorism concerns,” said Yiu.
According to the 2018 report, the UAE has visa-free access to 167 countries, while Singapore and Germany have access to 166. A host of western European countries – including Denmark, Sweden and France – and the United States and South Korea came third with visa-free access to 165 countries.
Taiwan was 28th, with 131 visa-free countries. Macau was 29th, with 129 visa-free countries. China was 58th; its passport holders enjoy visa-free access to 75 countries.
Afghanistan finished bottom of the global list, with just 29 countries granting Afghans entry without obtaining an advance visa.
A Hong Kong Immigration Department spokesman declined to comment.