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SWISS CITIZENSHIP

How powerful is the Swiss passport?

Got a Swiss passport or thinking about getting one? This is how it stacks up compared to official travel documents of other countries.

A Swiss passport seen up close.
How powerful is Switzerland's passport in comparison with other countries? By SDE. - Own scan., Public Domain,

In Switzerland, around one in four residents come from abroad. While plenty want to become Swiss, they’ve not done so due to the difficulty in obtaining the little red book. 

In 2019, the last year for which statistics are available, just over 41,000 foreigners received their Swiss passports. This number is slightly lower than in 2017 (about 45,000) and 2018 (42,5000).

Unlike many other countries, being born in Switzerland doesn’t automatically mean the person is Swiss if their parents were born abroad and still hold foreign passports.

But anyone who has managed to get their hands on a Swiss passport should know they have one of the world’s most powerful. That’s according to a new study the London law firm Henley & Partners, which ranked Switzerland’s passport as the equal fourth strongest worldwide.

IN NUMBERS: How many people become Swiss each year – and where do they come from?

The rankings are on the basis of the amount of visa-free countries a person holding that passport can visit (on the basis of 2021 immigration rules). 

Anyone holding a Swiss passport can visit 186 countries on a visa free basis, ranking Switzerland alongside New Zealand and Belgium in sixth position. 

Top place was taken out by both Japan and Singapore, who can visit 192 countries visa free. 

A graph shows the countries with the strongest passports

Which country has the strongest passport? Graph prepared by Statista for The Local.

Where do other countries rank?

There are big differences in the number of countries that can be visited visa-free or with a visa-on-arrival.

Citizens of Finland, Italy, Luxembourg and Spain can visit 189 countries visa-free with their passports. 

Holders of a UK and US passport can head off to 185 countries without having to figure out visa paperwork. Australians can visit 184 countries visa-free. 

Austrian and Danish citizens are allowed to travel to 188 countries without an explicit entry permit.

At the other end of the scale are some passports which only allow entry to a handful of countries. 

Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan have the weakest passports in terms of areas citizens can travel to without an entry permit – they have visa-free access to less than 30 countries worldwide.

How does the study work?

The law firm Henley & Partners evaluates data from the International Air Transport Association (IATA), among other factors, and provides travellers with information on which countries they can travel to with their passports and whether a visa is required.

Each passport is scored on the total number of destinations that the holder can access visa-free. For each travel destination, if no visa is required, then a score of 1 is given to that passport. This also applies if passport holders can obtain a visa on arrival, a visitor’s permit, or an electronic travel authority (ETA) upon entry.

For countries that require a visa or where a passport holder has to apply for a government-approved electronic visa (e-Visa) before departure, a score of zero is given. The same applies if they need pre-departure approval for a visa on arrival.

The country ranking, however, does not take into account the current travel restrictions resulting from the coronavirus pandemic of which there are many. 

For instance Swiss passport holders – and other EU citizens – are not currently allowed to travel to Australia. 

However, US president Joe Biden announced recently that the US will let vaccinated Europeans enter the country from November.

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TRAVEL NEWS

Reader question: What are the rules if I travel to France via Switzerland?

As the ski season continues many travellers will be coming to the French Alps and often the most convenient route is to fly into Geneva and then cross the border into France - but what does this mean for travel rules?

Reader question: What are the rules if I travel to France via Switzerland?

Question: I will be flying into Geneva with my family and then travelling to a ski resort in France, but I’m confused about whether I have to follow the French travel rules or the Swiss one, or both?

Both France and Switzerland have relaxed their travel rules in recent days, but they do not have the same requirements.

Technically, anyone entering France from an orange list country (including the UK, USA and Canada) via Switzerland must follow the French entry rules for their country of origin, unless they have been in Switzerland for the previous 14 days. In reality the Franco-Swiss border, being a Schengen border, is very lightly policed and travellers are rarely asked for paperwork – that doesn’t mean that it never happens though. 

Into Switzerland – Switzerland has just announced the end of all its travel rules, so you no longer need to show proof of vaccination at the border or fill in an entry form.

Into France – France has relaxed some of its travel rules, but others remain in place.

Fully vaccinated – France still requires proof of vaccination at the border, and you also need to complete a declaration stating that you do not have Covid symptoms, find that HERE.

Not vaccinated – If you’re not vaccinated there are different rules depending on whether you are travelling from an EU or Schengen zone country (including Switzerland) or from outside the EU. Technically, if you’re just passing through Switzerland you should follow the rules for the country of origin.

If you’re not vaccinated and coming from the EU/Schengen zone you need to show a negative Covid test taken within 72 hours (if a PCR test) or 48 hours if you’re using an antigen test.

READ ALSO Can I use a lateral flow test to travel to France?

If you’re not vaccinated and coming from an orange list country, you cannot travel to France unless your trip is essential. You can find the full list of accepted reasons HERE, but it does not include skiing holidays. 

Children

The French testing and vaccine rules apply to all children aged 12 and over, however unvaccinated children over 12 can travel if they are accompanied by fully vaccinated adults.

Vaccine pass

If you decide to stop off in Switzerland you won’t need to show a vaccine pass since the rules were scrapped on February 17th. Masks are also no longer required in the majority of indoor spaces.

Once you get to France, however, the rules are a lot stricter.

The vaccine pass is required for entry to a wide range of venues including bars and cafés, for ski lifts and to access long-distance transport such as TGV trains.

EXPLAINED How France’s vaccine pass works

Children aged 12-15 need a health pass, while those aged 15 and over need a vaccine pass – full details HERE.

For adults, a booster may be required in order to get a valid vaccine pass – full details HERE.

Masks are required in all indoor public spaces, including public transport. The mask rule relaxes on February 28th, but they will still be required after this date in shops and on public transport – full details HERE.

The France-Switzerland border is once again fully open after crossings were limited during the lockdowns of 2020 and 2021. 

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