Bill English 'happy' with decision to grant US billionaire citizenship after spending just 12 days in New Zealand

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Prime Minister Bill English has said he is "happy" US billionaire Peter Thiel has made a "positive contribution" to New Zealand society which has justified his citizenship.

Mr English did not go into specifics on what this contribution was but highlighted the discretionary power which the Government has to award New Zealand citizenships on the basis of "exceptional circumstances".

This provision of "exceptional circumstances" enabled the Internal Affairs Minister at the time, Nathan Guy, to award Mr Thiel New Zealand citizenship after spending just 12 days in the country.

Citizenship applicants normally need to spend 1,350 days in New Zealand over five years.

"We've got some discretion where we think there’s a particular contribution can be made and we’re happy that this particular person made a positive contribution," Mr English said.

Mr English also stressed Mr Thiel’s citizenship wasn’t fast tracked and that he originally got residency under Labour.

 

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"Exceptional cirrumnstances" citizenships can granted if it is considered there is an 'over-riding public interest'.

Early this year the Department for Internal Affairs released documents relating to his citizenship application but redacted information as to how long Thiel had spent in the country, saying it would infringe on his right to privacy. 

Radio New Zealand refuted these claims to the Ombudsman, saying the information was in the public interest. 

The Ombudsman compelled the Department of internal Affairs to release the information. 

Thiel was a co-founder of Paypal, who then made billions as a venture capitalist. 

He donated $1 million to the Canterbury rebuild after the 2011 earthquake.

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