Papers show how Peter Thiel was granted New Zealand citizenship

Technology billionaire and Trump adviser did not meet the usual citizenship criteria

Peter Thiel, the billionaire co-founder of Paypal, was granted New Zealand citizenship despite not meeting the usual requirements, new documents have revealed.

Details of Mr Thiel’s application have been released which show that he was granted citizenship due to his “exceptional circumstances” and because it was believed to be in the public interest.

Mr Thiel, who was one of the first investors in Facebook and is now an adviser to Donald Trump, was revealed last week to have been granted New Zealand citizenship. It also emerged that he has multiple million-dollar properties in New Zealand.

The revelation came as a surprise to New Zealanders and public pressure has forced the release of 145 pages of documents by the country’s internal affairs department.

They show that Mr Thiel, who was born in Germany, was granted citizenship despite not residing in the country for the prescribed 1,350 days, or having any intention to live in New Zealand on a permanent basis in the future. The formal citizenship process took place in a private ceremony in Santa Monica in 2011.

The documents said Mr Thiel’s “exceptional circumstances” related to “his skills as an entrepreneur and his philanthropy”, which were deemed to be of potential benefit to New Zealanders and the country.

Entrepreneurial studies

As part of his application, Mr Thiel wrote: “I have studied extensively New Zealand’s entrepreneurial environment, the current venture capital market and the prerequisites for, and economic advantages of, developing successful technology companies in a New Zealand context – I have concluded that the New Zealand government supports capital expansion, scientific research and international investment.

“All of these traits make New Zealand a great place to a start a business. It is a stable country with one of the highest ratings in the world for honesty and a non-corrupt culture, and it offers long-term entrepreneurial opportunities in technology development.

"As part of my study into how I could contribute to the existing entrepreneurial environment and further development of the venture capital market in New Zealand I have consulted with a variety of New Zealand political leaders, including meeting prime minister John Key, deputy prime minister Bill English and minister of economic development Gerry Brownlee. "

His business investments in New Zealand were also noted, including those in the companies Xero and Pacific Fibre Limited, as well as his intention to start a "technology incubator" in Auckland and use his San Francisco connections to provide US introductions for New Zealand businesses.

He added that although he did not live in his Auckland home or have any immediate plans to, it was almost permanently inhabited by his staff.

Philanthropic donations

The documents said that Mr Thiel demonstrated his philanthropic side by donating NZ$1 million (€670,000) to the Christchurch earthquake relief fund.

According to Forbes magazine Thiel is worth $3.7 billion (€3.44 billion) and it was believed that his becoming a New Zealand citizen would help New Zealand entrepreneurs and enterprises be promoted on the world stage.

One of the requirements for New Zealand citizenship is that the applicant should be resident in the country for a majority of the time over a five-year period, and plan to reside in the country after citizenship, or work for a New Zealand company overseas.

Mr Thiel did not meet either of these requirements as he had only visited the country on half a dozen occasions, and had no plans to permanently reside there, despite owning properties in Parnell and Queenstown.

Mr Thiel's application was supported by letters from a number of prominent New Zealand businessman, including Xero founder Rod Drury and Trade Me founder Sam Morgan.

Guardian service