Afghan, Iraqi passports deemed world's worst

Arab citizens struggle most to get visas.

By ADAM GONN / THE MEDIA LINE
August 29, 2010 18:06
2 minute read.
The Jerusalem Post

passports 311. (photo credit: Bloomberg)

 
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Citizens of the Arab world still have the hardest time of anyone on earth getting visas for international travel, a new survey has found.

A report by global consulting firm Henley and Partners, which specializes in international business travel and relocation, placed the Arab world at the bottom of the global list, despite a 25 percent increase in the number of countries that Arab citizens can enter without a visa.

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Based on data from the International Air Transport Association (IATA), each country is given one point per country that its citizens can enter without applying for a visa beforehand.

“[The] global ranking reflects the international travel freedom of the citizens of the various countries as well as the international relations and status of individual countries relative to others,” the report said. “Visa requirements are also an expression of the relationships between individual nations, and generally reflect the relations and status of a country within the international community of nations.”

Afghanistan, for example, was at the bottom of the list with only 26 points, as Afghan citizens can only enter 26 countries without arranging a visa beforehand. Afghanistan is closely followed by Iraq at 27. The top ranking Arab country is Bahrain with 67 followed by Qatar at 66 and the United Arab Emirates at 64.

The top spot in the list was handed to the United Kingdom, with 166 points, ahead of Denmark with 164 and Sweden with 163. The United States scored 155.

The study began in 2006 and has been published every two years since. Most Gulf states registered an 25 percent increase in the number of countries that they can travel to visa-free since the latest 2008 report.



Daniel Eid, General Manager of the Eid Travel agency in Lebanon, which scored 32, said that the strict visa requirements affect his clients travel plans.

“When people come to me they want to make it easy,” he told The Media Line, adding that country’s without visa requirements inevitably got more Lebanese visitors. “90 percent of Lebanese like to go to Turkey because they don’t have to go to the embassy to stand in line and get a visa.”

Eid said that other popular destinations included neighboring Jordan and Syria and countries such as Malaysia and Cuba, all of which don’t require Lebanese citizens to arrange a visa ahead of time.

In March during a meeting in Alexandria, Egypt the member states of the Arab Tourism Organization decided to initiate the implementation of a card containing the holder’s biometric information, set to replace traditional passports for Arab tourists traveling across the region.

In 2008 Kuwait started accepting the so-called Gulf Smart Card, a common passport for citizens of the Gulf Cooperation Council which is made up of Kuwait, Bahrain, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and The United Arab Emirates.

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