I found myself in an airport again on Wednesday. I was flying to Atlanta for a quick leadership conference. And as I wandered through the terminal, waiting for my delayed flight to start boarding, I took a moment to feel the energy of the place.

There was momentum.

Everyone walked with purpose. A father tugged the hand of a petulant little girl in pigtails. A businessman darted quickly through sluggish groups of people. A young couple helped each other into their towering backpacks.

They had places to go. People to see. Life was here, and it was moving.

It’s something I appreciate about airports. Most of the people here are embracing some form of adventure and, more importantly, freedom.

I’m not sure about you, but freedom is something I value highly. In fact, it’s why I’m planning to get a new passport this weekend. The May expiration date for my little 4.9-inch-by-3.4-inch blue rectangle is coming up.

To top it off, the U.S. State Department is increasing passport “execution fees” starting Monday, April 2. It’s just a $10 jump, and it’s for first-time applicants or people who lose their passport, but I figured I’d use this as an excuse.

That’s why passports are on my mind this week, and why I want to focus on them. Better yet, today I want to discuss how you can use your passport to make sure you never feel like you have less freedom than you want.

With that in mind, I’d like to ask you to think about your passport, if you have one. Take a moment to picture it. The colors, the corners, the texture. The words emblazoned on the front.

Got it in your mind?

Now, as you’re visualizing it, imagine how many countries can fit inside it. Maybe you can pack Germany, Ireland or Peru in its pages. Throw in Thailand and Australia for good measure. Keep packing them in.

Now how many did you want to get in there?

If you have a U.S. passport, you’ll be happy to know that you have a lot of room. The U.S. passport allows you to visit 176 countries without a visa. That’s 176 countries you can pack in there.

Sounds like a lot, right? That should mean it’s a pretty powerful blue rectangle.

Unfortunately, though, that’s not quite the case. Nomad Capitalist recently ranked 199 different citizenships based on five factors:

  1. Visa-free travel.
  2. International taxation.
  3. The world’s perception of the country and its people.
  4. Dual citizenship.
  5. Personal freedom.

And the U.S. passport is only ranked 35 out of 199 when you take into account all of the above factors. So who took the top spots?

Well, the top nine most powerful passports across the globe go to European countries. Here’s a snapshot:

  • 1. Luxembourg.
  • 2. Ireland.
  • 2. Switzerland.
  • 4. Portugal.
  • 5. Sweden.
  • 5. Italy.
  • 5. Spain.
  • 5. Finland.
  • 5. Denmark.

As you can see, Luxembourg, which allows visa-free travel to 177 countries, takes first place for 2018. It clearly climbed a long way from 10th place in 2017!

That’s because it grants citizens the ability to hold both dual and multiple citizenships. The country also seems to have a sterling reputation, so citizens don’t encounter as many holdups at passport controls.

Notably, in 2017, the Swiss passport was in first place. However, it fell to second place because Switzerland recently introduced military conscription, causing its freedom score to falter.

Another interesting move was in the British passport, which tumbled six places to 22nd place. As you might have guessed, worries about Britain leaving the EU drove this drop (as well as privacy concerns).

So what does this all mean?

Well, if you value your freedom and you have a U.S passport, you might want to consider grabbing a second passport from one of the higher-ranking countries. At the very least, I suggest reading up on the benefits of a second passport now.

The U.S. scored 35th, and that score could keep dropping in the years ahead. Our visa-free rank could fall by itself depending on how many countries deny easy access to the U.S. in the future. And if privacy concerns continue to ramp up and our reputation score falls further, the power of the U.S. passport could take a hit.

Now, I love my country, but I think it’s smart to understand your travel options … to know just how much freedom you have.

So I urge you to take a moment to do some research. It never hurts to gain a little more knowledge in this space.

To get started, I suggest reading former Congressman Bob Bauman’s best-selling The Passport Book. It’s an excellent reference point on everything you’d want to know about passports and travel.

Catch you next week.


Jessica Cohn-Kleinberg

Managing Editor, Banyan Hill Publishing