Earlier this month, Henley & Partners, a firm specializing in residence and citizenship planning, released its annual Visa Restrictions Index. Of 219 destinations, Canada is tied for fourth place. With my Canadian passport, I am free to visit 170 countries without a visa—or at least pick up a visa upon arrival. That’s something I’m thankful for.
There are 13 other countries above us. Eleven of those are European; Germany and the United Kingdom are at the top with 173 easy-to-visit countries. Another is the United States, sharing second place with Finland and Sweden with 172 countries. Japan and South Korea are in third place, along with 6 other countries, with 171 countries. Of all countries located south of the equator, New Zealand has the most freedom at 170 countries (they’re tied with Canada). The highest-ranked South American countries are Argentina and Chile with 150. Israel is the top of the Middle Eastern countries with 145. Seychelles is the top African country with 129.
As much as Canadians have freedom to travel around the world, we are also welcoming to others visiting Canada. When travelling abroad, it’s clear that Canada has a great reputation abroad; the Reputation Institute (yes, a real thing) has confirmed it in its annual RepTrak® reputation ranking. Since 2010, Canada has had either the best or second best reputation in the world. It’s mainly based on our “appealing environment”—our friendly and welcoming people, our beautiful and enjoyable country, and our appealing lifestyle. This year, we’re ranked as the best country in which to live, visit, work, and study.
Freedom to travel easily is something I am very grateful for as a Canadian. Some new friends I’ve met on the road have expressed their frustrations with all the paperwork necessary for any trip abroad. My Turkish friend, for example, is free to visit only 102 countries without a visa or with a visa-on-arrival—68 countries fewer than myself. It’s not as bad as others, like my Ghanaian schoolmates, who can visit only 61. Citizens of one of my favourite countries, Niger, can get a passport that accesses just 51 countries. The three worst countries? Somalia (30), Iraq (29), and Afghanistan (25). Freedom to travel, it seems, is part of a good quality of life.
So yes, I am thankful for the freedom to travel almost anywhere in the world and, equally, to live in a peaceful, beautiful country—one that others believe is worth getting their passports out to visit.