BEIRUT: Lebanese passport holders only gain admission to 37 nations without restriction, according to the recently released Henley & Partners rating of countries based on the degree of international travel afforded to their respective citizens.
This places Lebanon as 97th down the list alongside Ethiopia, Kosovo and South Sudan. Last year, local travelers could visit 39 countries without visa restrictions.
Leading this year's Henley & Partners list, German passport holders can travel to 176 nations out of a possible 218, while Britons can visit 173 putting it in eighth place alongside Austria, Belgium, France, Luxembourg, Netherlands, Norway and Singapore.
Also, according to the Henley annual travel freedom ranking, the UAE passport ranks 38th in the world due to its holders being able to visit 121 countries (including Europe's Schengen area) without having to apply for a visa. Other GCC nations maintained their positions and ranked within the top 70. Kuwait was placed in 60th with access to 80 countries and Qatar, at 62, has visa-free access to 78 countries.
Bahrain, Oman and Saudi Arabia followed closely behind, with visa-free access to 73, 69 and 68 countries respectively.
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.
In changes from last year's ranking, Somalia left the bottom four with access now to 30 countries, and Syria fell to a lower spot with only 29 countries allowing visa-free access. In total, 48 countries lost ground over the past year, dropping between one and three ranks, and only 42 countries showed no movement at all.
Christian H. Kälin, Chairman of Henley & Partners, says that 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," explains Kälin, a leading authority on international immigration and citizenship law and policy.
The biggest movers in this year's index were Peru and Ghana. Peru was the highest individual mover, gaining 15 places. Island nations also made a strong showing, with the Marshall Islands, the Solomon Islands, Micronesia, Kiribati and Tuvalu all gaining over nine places in the index. In contrast, Ghana showed the most negative movement, losing four places in one year.
The fortunes of the emerging economies of the BRICS nations were varied this year. Brazil and China both increased their standing on the index, moving up three and two ranks respectively. However, the other three all lost ground: Russia dropping three places, India two, and South Africa one.
"There is still huge disparity in the levels of travel freedom between countries, despite the world becoming seemingly more mobile and interdependent. 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," explains Kälin.
The firm of Henley & Partners specializes in residence and citizenship planning.
The concept of residence and citizenship planning was created by Henley & Partners in the 1990s. As globalization has expanded, residence and citizenship have become topics of significant interest among the increasing number of internationally mobile entrepreneurs and investors.
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