Thiel granted citizenship after only four visits

7:19 pm on 1 February 2017

American billionaire Peter Thiel visited New Zealand four times before the government granted him citizenship.

Peter Thiel

Peter Thiel Photo: AFP

The New Zealand Herald revealed recently that Mr Thiel - a donor to Donald Trump's election campaign - has been a New Zealand citizen since June 2011, prompting questions over whether he spent the required amount of time living here.

Normally a permanent resident has to spend more than 70 percent of their time in New Zealand over five years before they can apply for citizenship.

The Department of Internal Affairs refused to say how many days the entrepreneur spent in the country when he was granted citizenship, but documents released by the Department this evening showed he visited the country four times.

Read the full 145-page document release online here.

The documents showed he had never lived in New Zealand and did not plan to.

But Internal Affairs recommended Mr Thiel should be granted citizenship under exceptional circumstances, because of the numerous investments he made in New Zealand companies and the contacts he had in the United States.

The documents showed Xero businessman Rod Drury and Trade Me founder Sam Morgan wrote in support of his citizenship bid.

Internal Affairs redacted the number of days Mr Thiel spent in the country from the documents. They showed Mr Thiel had never lived in New Zealand and did not intend to.

Mr Thiel, 49, who co-founded Paypal and was one of the first investors in Facebook, has since bought and sold properties here, including a house in Auckland and a multi-million-dollar lakefront estate in Wanaka.

Thiel's NZ investments

Mr Thiel sank millions of dollars into New Zealand companies, including accounting software start-up Xero, before and after he was granted citizenship.

That included $15m he put into a partnership between his New Zealand-based company, Valar Ventures, and the New Zealand Venture Investment Fund, which was finalised in December 2011 - a few months after he gained citizenship - and publicly announced in March 2012.

He donated $1m to the Christchurch earthquake appeal fund in April 2011, a gesture then-Prime Minister John Key labelled "very generous" in a parliamentary debate in 2013.

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