Cyprus topped the list of countries offering Citizenship by Investment Programmes (CBI) whose passport power increased during 2019, according to the latest Passport Index.
The index ranks passports of the world based on their total mobility score which concerns the number of countries their holders can visit visa-free (VF), with visa on arrival (VOA) an Electronic Travel Authorisation (eTA) or an eVisa if issued within three days.
Overall, the Republic of Cyprus’ passport’s power ranks is 8 since its holders can visit 166 countries including 122 visa-free and 44 by obtaining visa on arrival. Holders of Cyprus’ passports can also visit another 32 countries after obtaining visa before their trip there.
Globally, the United Arab Emirates passport is considered as the most powerful as regards mobility with its holders being able to visit 179 countries visa-free or with visa on arrival, with those of Germany, Finland, Luxembourg and Spain following suit with 172 countries.
The average rank among the 193 UN member countries and six territories (ROC Taiwan, Macao (SAR China), Hong Kong (SAR China), Kosovo, Palestinian Territory and the Vatican) screened is 47 and the average mobility score is 107.
According to the index, this year also displayed an increase of passport power with nations offering CBI.
“Cyprus and St. Kitts and Nevis are amongst the ones who made the biggest leap forward, gaining +9 visa waivers in 2019,” the survey said.
The boost in passport power has also benefited Malta (+8), Antigua & Barbuda, Bulgaria, Montenegro and Portugal (+7), as well as Dominica and Saint Lucia (+6). Grenada came last but nevertheless showed improvement with (+4), said the survey.
Cyprus is also number seven in the top 10 of the Fastest-Growing Passports of 2019 after adding another nine countries this year to its mobility score, raising the number to 166. In 2017, the Cyprus passport ranked 13th among the strongest in the world, as its holders were able to travel to 146 countries without a visa or VOA.
Last November, the Cypriot government announced it would start procedures to strip the citizenship of 26 individuals following revelations that passports had been granted to a now-wanted Malaysian businessman, persons tied to Cambodia’s authoritarian government and a Kenyan billionaire who is under investigation for tax evasion by the authorities in Kenya.
The interior ministry has said it would review all passports granted before 2018 when stricter criteria and vetting instruments were put in place.
In January, the European Commission had warned that programmes of EU states, including Cyprus, to sell passports and visas to wealthy foreigners could help organised crime groups infiltrate the bloc and raise the risk of money laundering, corruption and tax evasion.
A month later the government introduced a series of changes to the citizenship-by-investment scheme, in a stated bid to make it more credible.
The Passport Index by Arton Capital is considered by its creators as the world’s most popular online interactive tool, which collects, displays and ranks the passports of the world.
To determine the individual rank of each passport, its mobility is score is taken into account, as well as their Visa-free portion of their score compared to the VOA. The UN Development Programme Human Development Index 2018 (UNDP HDI) is used as a tie breaker. The latter is used since UNDP HDI is a significant measure on the country’s perception abroad, the creators argue.