The most powerful passport in the world is not American.
The United Arab Emirates was No. 1 on the list on a ranking that went to 167, according to a compilation by the “Global Passport Ranking,” created by Arton Capital a Montreal–based organization that helps high-net-worth clients gain second citizenship and/or residency.
This was followed by Singapore, Germany, Denmark and Sweden, Finland, Luxembourg, France, Italy, the Netherlands and Spain. The U.S. ranked No. 14. Last year, Germany was listed as No. 1 on the list.
And the worst? Afghanistan, which was beaten by Iraq, Pakistan, Syria, Somalia, Yemen, Sudan, Iran and Bangladesh. Ahead of those countries at the bottom of the list were Ethiopia, Eritrea, Palestinian territories, Libya, Lebanon, Sri Lanka and North Korea.
Don’t miss: America is no longer No. 1 for super-rich
“It also underscores what can be achieved through positive diplomacy, reflecting the UAE as a confident and engaged force at the global stage,” H.H. Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed Al Nahyan, UAE Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation, said in a statement.
Other rankings like the “Nomad Passport Index” are based on visa-free travel (50% of ranking), taxation (30%), perception (10%), dual citizenship potential (10%) and overall freedom (10%). That ranks Luxembourg No. 1, Ireland No. 2 and Switzerland No. 3. (The U.S. was No. 35.)
Here’s a complete list of the latest Global Passport Index.
The “Global Passport Ranking,” however, has one simple criterion: It’s based on the number of countries the holder can visit without first obtaining a visa or applying for one on entry, rather than the quality of life and human rights records (or even the weather) in the respective countries.
“We continuously compare the passports of 193 countries and 6 regions of the UN members and work to collect data directly through publicly available information, government sources and international bodies,” said Armand Arton, founder and president of Arton Capital.
Don’t miss: 10 things billionaires won’t tell you
The New York-based Human Rights Campaign has roundly criticized the UAE for “intolerance of criticism, including the imprisonment of activists accused of insulting the country’s rulers and disrupting public order.” The HRC specifically mentioned the detention of Ahmed Mansoor.
The U.S. provides the UAE and Saudi Arabia — which admitted to the killing and dismembering of journalist Jamal Khashoggi at the Saudi embassy in Turkey — with modest military support in their war in Yemen, which the United Nations calls the “world’s worst humanitarian crisis.”
The “Nomad Passport Index,” for instance, is designed to show the true value of citizenship in each country from the perspective of a high-achieving citizen who wants the freedom to minimize his or her tax obligations, diversify his or her wealth, and travel freely without judgment, the report says.
Of course, many of the measures used are subjective. The world’s perception of a country (which only accounted for 10% of the score) relied on the World Happiness Report, the United Nations’ Human Development Index, and based on Nomad Capitalist’s personal experience with clients.
Millionaires are on the move: 95,000 high-net-worth individuals, those who have assets (including properties) over $1 million, moved from their home countries last year, versus 82,000 in 2016, according to the “Global Health Review: Worldwide Wealth and Wealth Migration Trends.
For the third consecutive year, Australia was the No. 1 country welcoming millionaire migrants, followed by the U.S., Canada, the UAE and the Caribbean. The researchers looked at investor visa programs, via work transfers, second passports, ancestry visas, spousal visas and family visas.
Get a daily roundup of the top reads in personal finance delivered to your inbox. Subscribe to MarketWatch’s free Personal Finance Daily newsletter. Sign up here.