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Larry Page, the billionaire Google co-founder, has been granted residency in New Zealand and spent time in the country during the coronavirus pandemic, the New Zealand government confirmed to CNBC Friday.
Page, 48, applied for New Zealand residence in November 2020 via the nation’s “Investor Plus” residency visa but the application was unable to be processed because he was offshore at the time.
The visa, which requires applicants to have NZ$10 million ($7 million) to invest in New Zealand over a three-year period, was then processed after he landed in Auckland on Jan. 12, one day after the Page family filed an urgent application for the son to be evacuated from Fiji due to a medical emergency.
“Once Mr. Page entered New Zealand, his application was able to be processed and it was approved on 4 February 2021,” Immigration New Zealand said in a statement.
New Zealand health minister Andrew Little told Parliament on Thursday the nation gets roughly 100 medevac requests a year. “I’m advised all of the normal steps occurred in this case,” he said in response to a question about how Page had managed to enter New Zealand when the borders were shut to non-residents. Throughout the coronavirus pandemic, New Zealand has kept its infection rates low by refusing entry to overseas travelers.
“Immigration New Zealand can confirm Larry Page met relevant requirements to be approved entry to New Zealand,” a spokesperson told CNBC.
Jacinda Ardern, New Zealand’s prime minister, said before Parliament that she hadn’t been briefed on Page’s visit. “With all [medevac] cases, those are decisions for clinicians, and I absolutely trust our clinicians to make decision,” Ardern said.
Located in relative isolation from the largest population centers of the world, New Zealand has become a popular destination with high net worth individuals in recent years.
The sparsely populated country, home to around 5 million people, has been hailed as one of the best places in the world to ride out a societal collapse, as it’s relatively self-dependent in terms of food and energy. It also boasts a temperate climate and a stable political system.
The news of Page’s visit and his residency has reignited a longstanding debate over whether the super rich can essentially buy access the South Pacific county as and when they want. Billionaire Peter Thiel, who co-founded PayPal and profited from an early bet on Facebook, was granted Kiwi citizenship in 2017 even though he’d only spent 12 days in New Zealand.
Thiel has invested in local start-up Xero and bought property across the country, as well as a 193-hectare estate in Wanaka on New Zealand’s rugged South Island. While he is yet to build anything on the site, he has been in contact with at least three architects.
OpenAI CEO Sam Altman told the New Yorker in 2016 that he and Thiel plan to get on a private jet and fly to one of Thiel’s properties in New Zealand in the event of some kind of systemic collapse event.