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These Are the Most Restrictive Passports in the World

A new report lists where countries rank when it comes to freedom of travel.

Image via Wiki Commons.

A passport: the ticket to global freedom, right? Or not, if you live in one of the nations whose passports actually restrict your movement, banning entry to dozens of countries.

According to a recent report compiled by Henley and Partners, the world's worst passports don't come from the expected international pariahs; China, North Korea, and Cuba don't actually appear that close to the bottom of the list. Believe it or not, North Korea ranks even better than Sri Lanka in terms of passport freedom. With a North Korean passport you can pay a trip to Gambia (great beaches), Malaysia, Singapore, and, if the mood strikes, Kyrgyzstan.


No, the worst five passports, according to Henley and Partners, are:


Photo via Wiki Commons.

A UK passport allows its bearers entry into 173 countries without a visa, so clearly an Afghanistan passport—which permits citizens to visit just 28 visa free—is kind of a pain in the ass. What kind of places can Afghan people visit without having to endure the hassle and insecurity of applying for a visa? Haiti, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, and Micronesia. If that doesn't sound too bad, it's worth considering that Afghan passport holders are completely blacklisted from entering Kuwait, visa or no. Plus, just because Afghans can apply for visas, it doesn't mean that'll give them guaranteed entry to these countries.

Amanda Philip, head of public relations for Henley and Partners, says that having to apply for a visa is still a massive obstacle: "Visa restrictions are an important form of border control and an effective foreign policy instrument. Whether you'll need a visa to visit another country depends on a number of factors, including the relationship between your country and the one you're trying to get to."

Having an Iraqi passport isn't much better: Iraqi citizens are permitted to enter Ecuador visa-free while their Afghan counterparts aren't. They're also allowed to go to Malaysia for 30 days with no visa—a further bonus. However, annoyingly for Iraqis, several countries have added extra obstacles for Iraqis in search of visas—perhaps because, along with Syria, the country is now widely viewed as the locus of the jihadist battle against the West.


Philips says: "Criteria that a country will consider when considering giving visa-free access to citizens of another country may include diplomatic relationships between the countries, reciprocal visa arrangements, security risks, or risks of violation of visa terms."

Pakistan and Somalia were tired for the third-from the-bottom spot on the list. Considering their respective instability, it's unsurprising that other countries have raised their visa requirements in recent years. Rabiha Sharif has both a Pakistani and British passport and "wouldn't dream" of using her Pakistani passport for anything other than visiting relatives there.

"Unless I'm traveling to Pakistan, it's pretty restrictive," she says. "I've traveled a lot over the last few years, and if I only had a Pakistani passport I wouldn't have been able to do any trips. A lot of my relatives traveling from Pakistan are always delayed when they go through immigration. It's never a smooth journey with a Pakistani passport."


Although a Nepalese passport ranks as the world's fifth worst (you need a visa to visit the entirety of Europe, and most of Asia, Africa, and South America), the one bonus of holding one passport is complete freedom of movement across India. Additionally, you can also travel visa free to Mauritius. That said, it can take up to four months to get a passport from the government and, with the average salary of a Nepalese person coming in at about a dollar a day a day, those $1,200 flights between Kathmandu and Mauritius are going to be a bit of a stretch.

Philip explains why this is: "Visa requirements divide the world into two classes of citizens: those from mostly middle-income and wealthy countries who can travel visa-free to many other countries, and those from generally poorer or geopolitically isolated countries who require a visa for most travel. There is a huge range between the countries with the most freedom of travel, and the least."