NOMPU SIZIBA: The travelling world can be an expensive business if you don’t have the right passport. The Henley Passport Index ranks South Africa’s passport as the 53rd most powerful passport out of 107 countries. The South African passport allows access to some 100 countries, but of course there are more powerful passports in terms of the number of countries they can access without a visa.
Well, to tell us about some of these powerful passport countries, and what attributes they have, given this power, I’m joined on the line by Ryan Rennison, the managing director of Move Up. Thanks very much for joining us, Ryan. What does it mean to have a powerful passport?
RYAN RENNISON: Thanks, Nompu, for having me on the show. To have a powerful passport just boils down to how many countries you can visit visa-free. So the more countries you can visit visa-free, the more powerful the passport is.
NOMPU SIZIBA: Which are some of the countries that rank highly in this regard, and what characteristics do they have that enable their citizens to mostly roam free across many parts of the world?
RYAN RENNISON: In a global context, there are 196 countries in the world, and the top passports will allow travel to 190 countries – them being Tokyo and offhand I can’t recall the other one [Singapore]. But those are the most powerful passports that allow for visitation rights.
NOMPU SIZIBA: What about the typical countries that one would think of? Maybe the United States, the UK – presumably they are fairly powerful passports.
RYAN RENNISON: Surprisingly, the first-world countries – they are competing on this. They are up in the top 10, yes, but they are not necessarily in the top three percentage.
NOMPU SIZIBA: So it’s the Asian countries that are overshooting them?
RYAN RENNISON: At this stage, yes.
NOMPU SIZIBA: What about dual citizenship? Are there many countries that South Africans can get dual citizenship with, and what usually is the qualification?
RYAN RENNISON: Yes, South Africans can get dual citizenship with any country if they wish, and that is a strategy that some South African investors or those able to pursue a certain nationality look at.
If I were to get another nationality, what benefits would that country’s nationality bring? From my perspective, there is a lot of emphasis or overhyping of how many countries you could visit with a nationality. The South African passport allows you to visit, without a visa, 100 countries. The reality is the average traveller or the average person can only visit at max nine countries in their lifetime – that’s the average traveller.
So, with that in mind, to have access to 100 countries – are you really going to utilise that freedom of travel? Is there really a need to make such a big thing about that access?
NOMPU SIZIBA: Yes, but it’s not about the number, is it? It’s about the destination. The destination you want to go to – does it allow you to go in there [visa] free?
RYAN RENNISON: Yes. and that’s what the Henley Partners demographic doesn’t represent. It doesn’t define what those countries are. That [requires] further studies.
NOMPU SIZIBA: So, Ryan, is it quite easy for high net worth individuals to be able to get a more powerful passport? In other words, if you have a good value proposition for an economy, like you are going to build a business or something like that, can you get a passport that way?
RYAN RENNISON: Yes. Entrepreneurial skills are encouraged by other countries, most definitely. And also if you can bring in foreign investment, yes. A lot of countries open their doors and make provisions for that.
NOMPU SIZIBA: With the United States we know that President Trump has been keen to stem immigration. But what about the Green Card? How easy is it for one to get one’s hands on that, and of course I do understand that a Green Card is a sort of visa and not an American passport per se.
RYAN RENNISON: Yes. My immigration experience lies primarily in the United Kingdom immigration [experience]. So the US is a bit out of my grasp.
NOMPU SIZIBA: No problem.
RYAN RENNISON: But I do keep my eye on it and I seen that he (Trump) has increased his investment threshold. So he’s open to foreign investment, but you’ll need to pay more in the coming years to get access to that Green Card.
NOMPU SIZIBA: Just to conclude, do you think that the South African passport is powerful enough as it is?
RYAN RENNISON: Look, it would be nicer if we could get access to more first-world countries visa-free, that’s what we don’t have access to. At this stage we can get to our neighbouring countries quite easily, and some good holiday, island destinations that are also up for grabs without a visa.
NOMPU SIZIBA: Thanks so much, Ryan, for your time.