German citizenship For Members

How powerful is the German passport?

Aaron Burnett
Aaron Burnett - [email protected] • 16 Jan, 2023 Updated Mon 16 Jan 2023 16:49 CEST
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A woman scans her German passport at an electronic gate. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Matthias Balk

No matter which index you consult, a German passport is regularly counted as one of the most powerful in the world. Here's just how far a German passport can take you.

For many people applying for German citizenship - including those prepping their documents for the moment they can become German and legally keep their other passport - there are many reasons for not wanting to give up their current citizenship.

Yet, in all likelihood, a German passport is more powerful than any others they might have. In some cases, much more so.

Several indices, including two out just recently, focus on travel freedom. That is, how many countries can you visit on that passport without a visa - or with a simplified process which you can get after landing. 

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The Henley Passport Index, which has just released its 2023 ranking, puts the German passport in the top five of the most powerful travel documents in the world. Along with Spain, Germany is among the two most powerful passports in Europe, as German citizens can travel to 190 countries or territories where they either don’t need a visa - or they can get one on arrival. Internationally, only the passports of South Korea, Singapore, and first-place Japan score higher than the German passport.

A few other indices also measure travel freedom, although each one calculates it slightly differently, explaining some of the different rankings. Some place more weight on whether you can travel completely visa-free to another country, while others treat being able to travel somewhere completely without a visa and being able to get a visa on arrival as more or less the same thing.

The 2023 Passport Index puts Germany in a tie for second place behind the United Arab Emirates (UAE). Although Germans can travel to a few more countries visa-free than UAE citizens, the UAE passport allows entry to a lot more countries through a visa on arrival than a German one does - which is why the index ranks it higher.

Meanwhile, the Guide Consultants Index also factors in where certain passport holders might need an electronic travel authorization (eTA), rather than just a visa or not, to travel to a certain country. By this measure, they rank Germany in a tie with Finland and Spain, just behind South Korea and Japan - and finally their top-ranked passport, a Singaporean document.

According to this index, Germans can travel to 145 destinations without a visa. They need a visa on arrival for 33 destinations. For 13, they can get a visa online and, for another 13, they just need to apply for an eTA online in advance. Germans need to apply for a travel visa in advance from only 25 countries.

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What about EU Freedom of Movement?

Current indices focus on the travel freedoms associated with a certain passport. Although each one measures travel freedom slightly differently, a German passport always does well in any of these indices.

However, none of them take into account the European Union freedom of movement a German passport grants. In addition to travelling, Germans can live and work in the EU’s other 26 member states without a visa. Through EU treaties, this right also exists with countries in the European Economic Area or European Free Trade Association, like Norway, Iceland, Switzerland, and Liechtenstein.

The Henley Quality of Nationality Index once tried to take this into account, alongside travel freedoms. At the time of its last edition in 2018, Henley tied Germany with the Netherlands as having the world’s second most powerful nationality, just behind France.

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Aaron Burnett 2023/01/16 16:49

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