Belgian passport grants access to 183 countries, putting Belgium in 6th place

An international passport issued by the Belgian authorities will guarantee you free access to no fewer than 183 countries, the youngest edition of the so-called Henley Passport Index shows. This puts Belgium on 6th place in the world rankings. 

Travelling in the Schengen area is easy if you have a Schengen passport, but things can get more complicated if you would want to leave this area. However, Belgian citizens can't complain, as a Belgian international passport will allow you into 183 different countries without the need to apply for a visa.

This puts Belgium on 6th place (together with other countries such as the U.K.) in the Henley Passport Index, a list of the most useful passports compiled by the International Air Association, an international umbrella organisation which includes almost all aviation companies. Belgium is preceded by 15 other countries, as each place on the list includes several countries. Our colleagues of the VRT newsroom also made a list of several answers and questions: following is a resume. 

1. Who is heading the index?

Japan and Singapore are topping the list. Their passport will allow you into 189 countries without a visa. Korea, Germany and Finland share second place, with 187 countries. 

2. How can a country improve its position?

"Research shows that countries into a democratic process will gain places," Henley Index researchers explain. At the same time, if citizens of a certain country are allowed to enter more countries without any barriers, this will also strengthen democratisation and liberalisation in their own country. In fact, the two factors can reinforce one another, as a result of which some countries can improve their position fast. 

3. How can a country drop in the rankings?

Countries isolating themselves or weakening ties in general, can drop fast. In 2014, the United States and the United Kingdom were heading the list together, now they have dropped out of the top-5. For the U.S., this could be due to Donald Trump's policies, as he is severing ties with several international organisations. The U.K. meanwhile is feeling the consequences of the Brexit woes. 

4. Does money a role?

Yes it does. If a country is short of cash and needs investments, it sometimes relaxes visa regulations. Various African countries have scrapped visa demands for countries from the Persian Gulf Region.

But your own cash also plays a role. Some countries try to seduce investors with individual promises of delivering them a passport, known as "citizenship by investment".  This can be interesting, if the country in question allows you to travel to many other countries without a visa. Countries "selling" passports in this way, are usually performing well on the index, like Malta and Cyprus in Europe. 

5. Which countries are bottom-of-the-table?

Generally speaking, war-torn countries are scoring below par. It's Afghanistan which is at the bottom of the list, granting access to only 25 countries.