According to the latest Passport Index ranking, Cyprus topped the countries with Citizenship by Investment Programs (CBI), whose passport power grew in 2019.
The Passport Index Explained
The Passport Index (PI) is an interactive online tool that is perhaps the most popular and comprehensive authority on passports globally.
The PI collects and compares data to analyze and rank the passports of the world’s countries. These include the 193 UN member countries as well as six territories: Hong Kong, Kosovo, Macao, Palestinian Territory, Taiwan, and the Vatican.
For each passport, the PI factors in the number of countries that its holders can visit either visa-free (VF) or with:
- A visa on arrival (VOA)
- An Electronic Travel Authorization (eTA)
- An eVisa issued within three days
Together, these factors are used to determine the passport’s mobility score. The PI uses that score as well as the VF to VOA ratio for each country to determine its final ranking.
The latest UN Development Programme Human Development Index (UNDP HDI) serves as a tiebreaker. It uses education, life expectancy, and per capita income indicators to rank countries into four categories of human development.
The Passport Index 2019
Currently, the PI ranks the United Arab Emirates (URA) passport as the most powerful. Its holders can visit a total of 179 countries either visa-free or with visa on arrival.
The URA is followed by Germany, Finland, Luxembourg, and Spain, with 172 countries each. Then come Denmark, Italy, the Netherlands, Austria, Portugal, Switzerland, Japan, South Korea, Ireland, and the USA, with 171 countries each. Sweden, France, Belgium, Malta, Greece, and Norway follow suit with 170 countries.
Overall, the average country rank was 47, and the average mobility score of 107.
The Index also recorded a marked increase of passport power in 2019 among countries with CBI. These include:
- St. Kitts and Nevis (+9 visa waivers)
- Malta (+8)
- Antigua and Barbuda, Bulgaria, Montenegro, and Portugal (+7)
- Dominica and Saint Lucia (+6)
- Grenada (+4)
Cyprus Passport Power in 2019
The Cyprus passport got an overall rank of 8, as its holders can visit a total of 198 countries. 122 of these are visa-free and 44 with visa on arrival. That is a marked improvement from 2017, when holders of Cyprus passports could visit only 146 countries visa-free or with a visa on arrival. A further 32 countries require Cyprus passport holders to obtain a visa before their trip.
What’s more, together with St. Kitts and Nevis, Cyprus topped the list of CBI countries with the most visa waivers (9) in 2019. The nine visa waivers also helped Cyprus climb to number seven in the world’s top ten fastest-growing passports in 2019.
Changes in Cyprus’s Citizenship by Investment Program
In November 2019, the government in Cyprus announced that it would initiate proceedings to revoke the citizenship of 26 individuals. The move came after the European Commission signaled that the Cypriot authorities had issued passports to foreign nationals with questionable credentials.
These include Jho Low, a fugitive Malaysian financier who allegedly misappropriated $4.5 billion from the Malaysian investment fund, persons with ties to Cambodia’s authoritarian regime, and a Kenyan billionaire under investigation for tax evasion in Kenya.
As a result, the Cypriot interior ministry made a commitment to review all passports granted prior to 2018, when stricter criteria for due diligence were put in place.
These were introduced after the European Commission raised its concerns in January 2018 that organized crime groups could misuse the CBI programs of EU Member States for tax evasion, corruption, or money laundering. The Cyprus government, therefore, announced several changes to its CBI scheme to prevent its abuse for illegal purposes.
Despite the recent changes to Cyprus’s Citizenship by Investment scheme, it can still offer great benefits. Those interested in making a sound financial investment as well as getting a first-rate passport that allows hassle-free international travel should definitely consider the program.
For further information on the Cyprus Investment Programme, please contact us at email@example.com