How Peter Thiel got New Zealand citizenship revealed in DIA documents video

Peter Thiel's application form for New Zealand citizenship.

Peter Thiel's application form for New Zealand citizenship.

Why exactly did Peter Thiel want New Zealand citizenship? 

In a December 2010 email an unnamed Department of Internal Affairs (DIA) official queried just that. Why did a controversial American/German billionaire want citizenship here, given he didn't intend to live in the country, didn't meet the requirements for citizenship, and already had permanent residence?

Another case manager later described the application as "interesting".

Then-President-elect Donald Trump shakes the hand of Peter Thiel during a meeting with technology executives at Trump ...

Then-President-elect Donald Trump shakes the hand of Peter Thiel during a meeting with technology executives at Trump Tower in December. Thiel is an adviser to the US President.

For his part, Thiel wrote in a letter it would "give him great pride to let it be known that he is a New Zealand citizen".

*Peter Thiel is a New Zealand citizen. This is what you need to know
*Peter Thiel donated $1m to Canterbury recovery before getting citizenship
*PM Bill English defends Thiel decision
*Politicians demand answers over Peter Thiel

But despite his claim of pride, Thiel kept his citizenship secret for almost six years following the grant, and is yet to discuss it publicly.

Peter Thiel speaks in support of Donald Trump at the Republican National Convention in 2016.

Peter Thiel speaks in support of Donald Trump at the Republican National Convention in 2016.

"I have found no other country that aligns more with my view of the future than New Zealand," Thiel wrote.

He advised his "wide global network" would be of "great value" to New Zealand.

His application noted his considerable investments in New Zealand technology companies like Xero and Pacific Fibre. There was also discussion of $1m donation to the Canterbury rebuild.

Prime Minister Bill English has defended the Government's decision to grant Peter Thiel citizenship.

Prime Minister Bill English has defended the Government's decision to grant Peter Thiel citizenship.

The DIA have released the surrounding documentation concerning Thiel's citizenship, which required a special grant by then-Minister of Internal Affairs Nathan Guy. 

Ad Feedback

The "special grant" was required as Thiel did not meet two statutory requirements to become a citizen - a history of residing in New Zealand and an intent to reside there in future.

Thiel had never lived in New Zealand long-term and made plain in his application that he did not intend to move.

The exact number of days he had lived in New Zealand was redacted, but the size of the redaction suggests it was only in the double digits. 

The grant was given and Thiel attended a private citizenship ceremony at the New Zealand Consulate in Santa Monica in August of 2011.

Guy was advised to grant the citizenship under an "exceptional circumstances" public interest clause in the law, as Thiel had great skills as an entrepreneur and was philanthropic.


Prime Minister Bill English has defended a decision to grant citizenship to American tech billionaire Peter Thiel.

Thiel offered to assist with the establishment of an Auckland-based technology company and a "landing pad" in San Francisco to help New Zealand technology companies break into the US market.

His lawyers pointed to his large investments in New Zealand technology companies and donation to the Canterbury earthquake recovery.

TradeMe founder Sam Morgan and Xero CEO Rod Drury wrote letters in support of Thiel's application. 

Nathan Guy signed off Peter Thiel's citizenship application in 2011 when he was internal affairs minister.

Nathan Guy signed off Peter Thiel's citizenship application in 2011 when he was internal affairs minister.

Numerous news articles surrounding Thiel's investments in New Zealand and donation to the Christchurch earthquake recovery were also included. 

​When approached about Thiel's citizenship application last week, Drury said he wasn't aware of it. 

"I wasn't sure, I had to go back and check. I didn't want to be a part of the story at that stage," he said on Wednesday.

But he added that he "absolutely" had written a letter in support of Thiel.

"We offered it when we heard he was going for citizenship," he said.

"He's a huge supporter of us and he's been a fantastic advisor. He's very supportive of New Zealand so we were very pleased to help."

Drury said Thiel was one of the most well-known and respected people in the technology industry, and he had been thrilled to work with him.

Thiel made a US$4 million investment in Xero in 2010 to support Xero's expansion into the US market. 


Labour party immigration spokesman Iain Lees-Galloway said he was "shocked" by the decision to grant Thiel citizenship.

"Peter Thiel was granted citizenship because he was a wealthy individual. Money talks with this government.

"I am yet to see any evidence that New Zealand has gained from this arrangement. It's very clear what Mr Thiel has gained as a citizen - he's been able to purchase a very large piece of South Island real estate.

"It seems he has set himself up an insurance policy should things become unstable in America."

​The Overseas Investment Office revealed Thiel's citizenship last week when they were asked whether they had scrutinised his purchase of a $13.5 million lifestyle block in Wanaka - a requirement for foreign residents, but not citizens.

Guy said at the time he did not remember what the exceptional circumstances were, but that he had acted on the advice of officials.

Potential Kiwis usually have to spend at least 70 per cent of a five-year period in the country to gain citizenship.


Thiel, worth a reported $3.7b, rose to fame as the co-founder of PayPal. After PayPal was sold to eBay he became an extraordinarily successful venture capitalist, making over a billion dollars as the first outside investor in Facebook.

Just before gaining citizenship, Thiel talked up New Zealand in foreign media, donated $1m to the Canterbury rebuild, and invested in failed fibre venture Pacific Fibre.

Prime Minister Bill English has defended the Government's decision to grant him citizenship, saying Thiel had "demonstrated his commitment to New Zealand" over the last 11 years after becoming a resident in 2006.

"There's 200 to 300 cases a year where they don't quite fit the criteria or there's some overriding public interest, and the minister acts on the advice of officials as to whether it is generally appropriate for that person to become a citizen."

Thiel's lawyers and PR agency have been asked for comment on the circumstances of his citizenship, but he is yet to respond.

The German/American/Kiwi has been in the spotlight often over the last few years.

He secretly funded a lawsuit in 2016 that bankrupted media company Gawker and was a member of Trump's transition team.

He also made an investment in a company experimenting with the transfusion of young blood into older people, calling the area "underexplored".

Thiel is the co-founder of Palantir, a secretive data analysis company that works with several spy agencies, including potentially New Zealand's.

 - Stuff

Ad Feedback
special offers

Animals kept in 'disastrous' conditions

A neighbour says this horse is neglected.

Neighbours at war over treatment of animals at Auckland rural property.

Historic pub killing set for trial

Chris Bush was shot and killed in October 1987.

Two men to stand trial next year over the murder of pub manager Chris Bush 30 years ago.

National's Paula Bennett text gaffe

Bennett said one of the messages was sent out as an iMessage in error, meaning all recipients could see each other's ...

Party admits "poorly worded" text appearing to be from Deputy PM was sent by a volunteer.

Fuel pipe mystery deepens

Refining NZ chief executive Sjoerd Post says digger teeth marks were visible on exposed, torn pipe.

Refining NZ boss worries for digger driver who damaged "almost pristine" fuel pipe.


Loud bangs during police search

Armed police called out to a property on Battery Rd, Napier.

Armed police swoop on Napier property to execute a search warrant.

Inmate seeks transfer

Convicted murderer Stephen Hudson appeared by audio-visual link to the High Court in Wellington. (File photo)

Stephen Hudson was in Whanganui Prison, he's now in Rimutaka, but he wants to be at Tongariro.

McLean Park loses another ODI

ICC umpire Kumar Dharmasena checks the wet outfield at McLean Park.

Ahh, McLean, not again. Re-turf delays have seen the park lose another ODI.

H&M opening date

Sneak peek from behind the scenes at the new H&M Home store about to open in Christchurch, the first to open in NZ

H&M, which opens October 26, says not knowing Kiwi shoppers was Topshop's downfall.


Chch restaurant overhauled

Owner Glenda Clark has put her own spin on the New Regent St restaurant The Grey Robin, formerly Shop Eight.

A reinvented New Regent St restaurant opens next week, while Hello Sunday spreads it wings.

Housing melting pot video

A new housing development on Grove Rd has locals worried about more intensive development in the area.

Addington's old cottages are picturesque but freezing. The new townhouses are warm but crammed in.

Car hits woman in CBD

A 22-year-old woman has been seriously injured after being hit by a car at the intersection of Moorhouse Ave and Madras ...

The 22-year-old pedestrian was rushed to Christchurch Hospital with serious injuries.

A vacuum deal that sucks

Richard and Olivia Knights, of Dunedin, and a trade-in vacuum cleaner that was returned.

Godfreys said she was getting a discount, took her old vacuum, then charged full price.


Historic pub killing set for trial

Chris Bush was shot and killed in October 1987.

Two men to stand trial next year over the murder of pub manager Chris Bush 30 years ago.

Cocaine, cash found

The armed offenders squad helped execute a search warrant in Te Aroha.

Seven searches in Te Aroha were undertaken netting cocaine, cash and five arrests in a pre-dawn raid.

Kiwis want water levy

Farmers protested perceived attacks from politicians in Morrinsville on Monday, September 18. A new survey shows the ...

The majority of Kiwis want to see farmers pay for water use, a new survey shows.

High speed bike chase

Simon Daniel Hussey, 29, led police on a high speed police chase through the streets of Hamilton on October 6, 2015 ...

Simon Hussey reached 120kmh in an 80kmh zone while fleeing police through Hamilton.


Four great standby dishes

New Plymouth Boys' High School students enjoy the meal they prepared.

Young cooks should be able to cook each of these from scratch and cook them well.

Right note for country's youth band

The young musicians will head to the South Island next year to train with the band.

Having five local players picked for the national band was rare, said Drew Wood.

Three-car collision

The incident occurred before 10am on Wednesday.

St John ambulance paramedics treat occupants of the vehicles at crash scene.

Circus comes to town gallery

Max and Sophia perform the balancing act.

A new circus has come to town, complete with hoop diving, human pyramids and 12 girls on one bicycle.


Keeping the workshop tidy

12092017 Photo: MURRAY WILSON/STUFF		
Under the Radar:
Charles Reggers- a volunteer at Te Manawa talks about what he ...

A tidy workshop is a productive one and, thanks to Charles Reggers, Te Manawa's is exactly that.

Councils stay sweet

Rangitīkei mayor Andy Watson and Manawatū mayor Helen Worboys won't be restricting the sale and supply of sugary drinks ...

Manawatū and Rangitīkei mayors won't be restricting sale of sugary drinks.

Pushing their peers to vote

Shayna Wingfield-Smith, 14, says young people should ask lots of questions and listen to politicians debating, to help ...

Trio has wake-up call for young people planning to sleep through election.

Spilled milk stops traffic

Police are rushing to the site of a large milk spill at Maharahara Rd near Dannevirke.

Tararua traffic has been disrupted by a large milk spill along a road. 


Jellyfish buzzing with real vibrancy

Debbie Lavery at her freshly renovated Jellyfish Cafe at Mapua Wharf.

Does Mapua's Jellyfish cafe have the best cafe view in the region? Our food writer thinks it could.

Schools slam the Link

Schools in the Victory corridor have banded together to speak out against the proposed Southern Link.

Three Nelson schools and the kindergarten association speak up about the Southern Link.

Home detention for sexual assaults

Ian Hopkins appeared in Nelson District Court on three charges of indecent assault.

A 75-year-old Nelson man given home detention over indecent assaults on three women.

Fundraiser exceeds expectations

Jamie Brown, left, Garry MacDonald, Chris Franklin and Richard Capenerhurst formed one of 27 teams at the prostate ...

Students' golf fundraiser for prostate cancer exceeds expectations


Dinner's in the bag

Sous chef Emily Hulburt, 5, helps out in the kitchen preparing a 'My Food Bag' recipe.

By her own admission, reporter Paula Hulburt is a whizz with a microwave. As the first delivery of My Food Bags arrive in Blenheim, she took one for a test drive.

Cafe confrontation

Prime Minister Bill English stopped in at BV Gourmet in Blenheim on the campaign trail on Tuesday. (File photo)

PM's coffee break gatecrashed as Labour candidate accuses National supporters of ripping down billboards.

Businesses back racecourse site

The Ministry of Education says Waterlea Racecourse, in Blenheim, is still being considered for the site of Blenheim's ...

Chamber of Commerce throws weight behind Waterlea Racecourse, but wants a decision on new school campus either way.

Weather closes newly-fixed rail line

The Main North Line between Picton and Christchurch has been closed due to bad weather, just days after its post-quake ...

Just a single train managed to traverse the newly-repaired rail line from Christchurch to Picton before bad weather closed it again.

South Canterbury

Impatient drivers put all at risk gallery

A tale of two overtakes. The vehicle closest to camera is safe but the blue hatchback further up the road is overtaking ...

Blind faith in their luck sees motorists take big risks between Twizel and Timaru.

Rules could change video

Minister Nick Smith said he endorsed the idea low-emission burners should only be introduced when old burners have ...

Meeting told Nick Smith will progress changes to national air standards.

Two escape fire video

Two people are in hospital after a well involved house fire near Timaru on Tuesday morning.

Elderly man carried wife over his shoulder as their house burned to the ground.

Parking meters stolen

Six parking meters have been stolen in Timaru, four from Bank St, and the other two from Strathallan St.

Police are looking for information after the theft of six parking meters in Timaru.


Changes under way at hospital

An independent review of Dunedin Hospital's urology department has been carried out after several patients experienced ...

Health Minister expresses ''full confidence'' in Dunedin Hospital management after concerns were raised over life-threatening delays.

A vacuum deal that sucks

Richard and Olivia Knights, of Dunedin, and a trade-in vacuum cleaner that was returned.

Godfreys told her she was getting a discount, took her old vacuum - then charged her full price.

Feedback on Qtown center plan

Queenstown Lakes District Council chief executive Mike Theelen and mayor Jim Boult looking at town centre plan proposal.

The feedback has been mainly positive on the Queenstown Town Centre master plan, a council summary says.

Futuro spaceship sold

The rare Futuro house was displayed at the 1974 Commonwealth Games in Christchurch before being moved to its current ...

Its sale attracted worldwide interest but the new owner has no plans to move it from Dunedin.


Seal lion shot

Department of Conservation staff have found a second critically endangered sea lion shot on a Catlins beach.

DOC staff have found a second critically endangered sea lion shot.

Search under way

Missing Dunedin man Stephen Lowe.

Police and LandSAR volunteers are searching for missing Dunedin man in the Catlins.

Upgrade planned for Elles Rd intersection

Lake St was the site of a crash between a train and a logging truck earlier in September.

One of Invercargill's most hazardous intersections is set for a major upgrade.

Tiwai celebrates

NZ Aluminium Smelters general manager Gretta Stephens, with Southland Girls' High School students Imogen Brankin, Tayla ...

Southland Girls' High School and New Zealand Aluminium Smelters are celebrating 10 years of working together.

Ad Feedback