HR & EDUCATION | Staff Reporter, Hong Kong

Hong Kong falls two spots in global visa restrictions index

It is still ranked third in North Asia.

Hong Kong has fallen in the latest edition of the Visa Restrictions Index – the annual travel freedom ranking published by the global residence and citizenship advisory firm, Henley & Partners. The index is produced in partnership with the International Air Transport Association (IATA), which maintains the world’s largest and most authoritative database of travel information.

The Hong Kong SAR, which was ranked in 20th place worldwide last year, fell to 22nd globally in the 2017 index, with visa-free access to 152 countries. The city is still ranked third in North Asia, after Japan (5th worldwide / 172 countries) and South Korea (7th worldwide / 170 countries).

Mainland China is in sixth place in North Asia, but ranks 85th globally, with visa-free access to 51 countries. That represents a rise of 2 places. Macau was the biggest climber in North Asia, adding four countries to take its visa-free access total to 127, putting it in fifth place in North Asia.

According to Jennifer Lai, Managing Partner and Head of North Asia for Henley & Partners, although the size and make-up of the 'Top 10' remains the same as last year, the changing geopolitical climate could well affect the rankings over the next 12 months.

“We have witnessed several major events recently that are likely to have an impact on global mobility – including Brexit and the election of US President Donald Trump. Both can be interpreted as steps toward restricting movement and creating barriers to entry. This trend towards curbing travel freedom is already apparent in the shift in rankings on this year’s Visa Restrictions Index,” said Lai.

In total, 48 countries lost ground over the past year, dropping between one and three places, and only 42 countries showed no movement at all. Germany holds on to its top spot on the index for the fourth consecutive year, with access to 176 countries in total. Sweden also remains static in second place with 175 countries, and Denmark, Finland, Italy, Spain and the US jointly rank third, with their nationals enjoying access to 174 countries without a visa.

The UK, however, has slipped down yet another position this year to fourth, having shared first place with Germany for two consecutive years. Syria, Pakistan, Iraq and Afghanistan sit at the very bottom of the Henley & Partners Visa Restrictions Index, each with visa-free access to less than 30 countries worldwide.

“Despite the world becoming seemingly more mobile and interdependent, there is still huge disparity in the levels of travel freedom between countries. Generally, visa requirements are a reflection of a country’s relationship with others, and take into account diplomatic relationships between countries, reciprocal visa arrangements, security risks, and the dangers of visa and immigration regulation violations,” said Lai.

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