In a recent ranking of passports based on the number of countries to which visa-free travel is permitted, Vietnam scores poorly. A Vietnamese passport allows travel to just 54 countries without a visa or other travel permission, one of the lowest numbers of any country in Asia.
Henley Passport Index
The annual ranking is known as the Henley Passport Index. The Henley Passport Index compares passports from states around the world based on how many countries a passport holder is allowed to travel to without a visa. This is determined by awarding points. If a particular passport allows visa-free travel to a country, that passport is awarded 1 point. A passport is also awarded 1 point if it is possible to obtain a visa on arrival in the destination country. However, if a visa has to be obtained before departure, the passport is not awarded any points. In this way, all the points are added up to determine how ‘strong’ or ‘weak’ a passport is.
Vietnamese passport one of the weakest
Based on this classification, Vietnamʼs passport scores poorly on the Henley Passport Index. With only 54 points, Vietnam ranks 94th out of 116 countries tested. It shares this place with neighbouring Cambodia, Niger and Mali. The only countries in Southeast Asia that score lower than Vietnam are Laos and Myanmar. While one might be inclined to think that such low scores are common for that region, this is certainly not the case. For example, Singapore ranks 2nd with 192 countries to which visa-free travel is allowed with a Singaporean passport, and Malaysia ranks 12th.
For Vietnam, this is another disappointing result. In both 2019 and 2020, the country scored poorly, and compared to 2020 (place 88), the country has even regressed. This is not because Vietnamese passports have become ‘weakerʼ, but because they have remained static. Other countries are increasingly able to arrange visa-free travel for their citizens, while the Vietnamese government is unable to make any progress in this regard.
Japan and Western countries on top
The top ten of the list is mainly filled by the worldʼs economic powerhouses. Japan has been at the top since 2018. Japanese passports allow visa-free travel to 193 countries. Other high-flyers, apart from the already mentioned Singapore, are South Korea (191) and Germany (191). Ireland (188) and the United Kingdom (187) also score extremely well. In 2014, the United States still shared first place, but by 2020 the country had dropped to seventh place due to the Trump administrationʼs strict immigration policy.
At the bottom are mainly countries that suffer from structural conflicts. For example, Afghanistan is in last place (25), and countries like Syria and Somalia also score poorly.
Vietnam visa easy to obtain
The fact that the Vietnamese passport scores so poorly will come as a surprise to some. Travelling to Vietnam is relatively easy, partly because of the efficient online visa system that allows travellers to submit their visa application online. The Vietnamese embassy even advises travellers who qualify for the e-visa to stop using the visa on arrival that can be obtained after arriving at the airport. To apply for the digital Vietnam visa, you fill in the online application form. The delivery time is one week on average, in urgent cases 3 working days.
Vietnam visa application
To travel to Vietnam, every traveller, including children, must have their own visa. Since 2018, the e-visa for Vietnam can be applied for entirely online. Previously, the visa could also be arranged upon arrival in Vietnam, the so-called visa on arrival, but this is no longer recommended by the Vietnamese embassy. Another option is to have a physical visa stamped in your passport by the embassy, but this is much more complicated and time-consuming.
One of the main reasons that the Vietnamese passport scores so poorly is that Vietnam itself offers visa-free travel to few countries. Passport holders from only 24 countries can travel to Vietnam without a visa, and the maximum length of stay is very short in some cases. By comparison, Singapore offers visa-free travel to, among others, all countries in the European Union.