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Did New Zealand Bypass Their Immigration Act And Favours The Rich?
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Silicon Valley billionaire Peter Thiel, an adviser to US President Donald Trump, was able to gain New Zealand citizenship in 2011 despite never having lived in the country because a top lawmaker decided his entrepreneurial skills and philanthropy were valuable, documents reveal.
Thiel didn't even have to leave California to become a new member of the South Pacific nation. He was granted citizenship during a private ceremony held at the New Zealand consulate in Santa Monica. The grant was given despite Thiel not fulfilling the usual criteria because he satisfied "exceptional circumstances" that meant the grant was in the public interest.
Thiel cuts a divisive figure at home because of his ties with Trump and for financially backing a lawsuit that led to Gawker Media's bankruptcy.
He has confessed an interest in parabiosis, which involves injecting oneself with a younger person's blood to remain healthier for longer. And he's also reportedly among the super rich making contingency doomsday plans, which may explain his interest in New Zealand.
His status was first reported by The New Zealand Herald newspaper last month, and the New Zealand Department of Internal Affairs on Wednesday released 145 pages of redacted documents detailing how Thiel became a citizen in response to public pressure.
The documents reveal Thiel's $1 million (£793 million) donation to the Christchurch earthquake relief and the fact he has invested an undisclosed amounts in local businesses such as the accounting-software maker Xero and the undersea-cable firm Pacific Fibre.
Normally people applying for citizenship need to spend 70% of their time living in their chosen country and continue living there for some time after the grant. The documents state that Thiel would not be living in New Zealand after being granted citizenship.
In his application letter to the department, Thiel wrote that New Zealand lacked the "deep pools of capital" to build out its technology industry. He revealed that he had expanded his own venture-capital firm, Valar Ventures, to New Zealand and would continue investing in local companies.
Opposition Labor MP Iain Lees-Galloway told the Financial Times: "People are deeply uncomfortable with this. This was all done behind closed doors and most New Zealanders don't think it is appropriate to offer citizenship for money or as some sort of insurance policy in a turbulent world."

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