The Irish passport is ranked sixth in the world, ahead of America’s and the UK’s, for visa-free access to foreign countries, according to new data.

Irish passport holders can visit 186 destinations without obtaining a visa beforehand. A UK passport permits entry to 185, according to the annual Henley Passport Index.

The data, which does not take account of Covid-19 travel restrictions, means Ireland has “one of the strongest passports for global mobility in the world”, according to Paddy Blewer, a director for consultancy firm Henley & Partners, which takes data from the International Air Transport Association as well as other sources.

In 2021, Irish passport holders will not require visas for Mongolia or Iran, unlike UK passport holders. Irish citizens, however, require visas for Vietnam, whereas UK citizens do not. “Ireland and the UK share the same access, or not, for all the rest of the countries around the world,” Blewer said.

Ireland has maintained sixth position for passport travel since 2017. Between the years 2006 and 2009, Henley ranked it as the second most powerful passport in the world.

Japan holds top spot on the index. Its passport holders are able to access 191 countries without visas. An Afghanistan passport is the world’s least powerful, giving access to just 26 countries.

Last year more than 400,000 Irish passports were issued, 60% fewer than in 2019. Carol Sinnott of Sinnott Solicitors in Dublin, which offers advice on obtaining Irish passports through ancestry, said it has not noticed a drop-off in applications, however. “About 90% of the inquiries are from British people who have some form of Irish ancestry,” said Sinnott, who claimed her firm received 14 queries a day in the first week of 2021 following the end of the Brexit transition period.

Notwithstanding Covid restrictions, UK travellers can visit EU countries without visas for up to 90 days in 2021. From 2022, however, UK citizens will need to pay for a visa waiver to visit Schengen-area countries, which covers most EU states except Ireland.

“In post-pandemic recovery, we expect the Irish passport power to leap way ahead of the UK one,” said Hrant Boghossian of consultancy Passport “We expect many UK nationals who have the possibility to acquire Irish passports will do so.”

Lee Child, author of the Jack Reacher books, has said he will apply for an Irish passport in order to sidestep post-Brexit travel restrictions in Europe. Child, whose real name is James Grant, is entitled to Irish papers as his father was born in Belfast.

Henley & Partners also produces a quality of nationality Index, which ranks nations on economic strength, ease of travel, political stability, and overseas employment opportunities for citizens.

“On the index, Britain will probably lose significantly,” said Christian H Kaelin, chairman of the Henley Passport Index. “Suddenly you can’t just settle in Spain [if you hold a UK passport], you need a permit . . . In terms of passport power, Ireland is remaining similar to the UK, but in terms of quality of nationality, Ireland is suddenly better.”

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