Japanese and Singaporean passport holders have the greatest travel freedom worldwide, with visa-free access to a record 180 countries, according to a survey by the law firm Henley & Partners.

According to the 2018 Henley Passport Index Ranking released Wednesday, Germany fell to second, with visa-free access to 179 countries, after ranking first for the past five years.

“Japan and Singapore rose to the top of the index after, among other developments, Uzbekistan lifted visa requirements for Japanese and Singaporean nationals in early February,” the firm said on its website. “Uzbekistan’s efforts to increase tourist inflows saw a number of other countries in Asia and the Middle East (including Turkey, Indonesia, and Israel) gaining access.”

Japan ranked fifth in last year’s survey with visa-free access to 172 nations.

Overall, nations in Asia and the Middle East have expanded the number of countries their passport holders can travel to without a visa, increasing the mobility of their citizens, the firm said.

This trend has been slower in their European and American counterparts, where the signing of new cross-border agreements on short-term travel has been far less frequent, it said.

In Tokyo, the Foreign Ministry was pleased with the result.

“Allowing visa-free access to a great number of countries has been one of the major characteristics of Japanese passports,” said Yoriko Suzuki, a Foreign Ministry official in charge of issuing passports. “It brings further convenience to the Japanese people.”

According to the survey, South Korea ranked third, along with Spain, Denmark, Finland, France, Italy and Sweden with visa-free access to 178 countries.

The United Kingdom took fourth with 177 countries and the United States fifth with 176.

Syria, Iraq, and Afghanistan were at the at the bottom of the list, with each only having visa-free access to 28, 27 and 24 countries respectively.

The Henley Passport Index is based on exclusive data from the International Air Transport Association (IATA). Henley & Partners say IATA maintains the world’s largest and most comprehensive database of travel information.

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