Peter Thiel's held citizenship for more than three years

Controversial billionaire Peter Thiel has held New Zealand citizenship since 2011, the Department of Internal Affairs, which administers the granting of citizenships, has confirmed.

"While the Department doesn’t usually discuss individual citizenship details, there is sufficient public interest in Mr Peter Thiel to warrant comment. The Department confirms that Mr Thiel was approved New Zealand citizenship on 30 June 2011," the department said in a statement.

To gain New Zealand citizenship, a person must have either lived in New Zealand for the majority of the five years prior or their parents must have been born in New Zealand. 

There are also conditions they must meet, such as a good command of English, good character testing and, crucially, an intention to reside in New Zealand. 

There is however a special clause in which the Internal Affairs Minister can grant citizenship if they deem the granting of citizenship to be "in the public interest because of exceptional circumstances" - this appears to be the condition under which Thiel was granted it.

Primary Industries Minister Nathan Guy, who held the position of Internal Affairs Minister at the time citizenship was granted, told Newshub he did not recall the application but believes officials recommended granting citizenship. 

"As Minister I tended to follow the advice of DIA officials on these issues," Mr Guy said

Mr Thiel's connection to New Zealand is mostly financial. He has invested around $50 million in accountancy software company Xero and the New Zealand Venture Investment Fund.

Mr Thiel's citizenship allowed him to purchase a 193 hectare estate in Lake Wanaka in 2015 with Overseas Investment Office approval. 

Labour Party immigration spokesman Ian Lees-Galloway said this revelation raised questions over how Mr Thiel's citizenship flew under the radar for so long, especially as Hollywood film director James Cameron had drawn considerable attention while living in New Zealand. 

"I can't imagine someone of Thiel's stature and wealth and not being noticed for five years, it just doesn't seem very likely," Mr Lees-Galloway said in Parliament

Mr Thiel has been a controversial figure in the United States lately, being one of the first prominent businesspeople to support the presidential campaign of Donald Trump. He's now serving as part of Trump's transition team. 

He also funded Hulk Hogan's defamation action which bankrupted website Gawker.