How to get a National Insurance number in the UK
The UK National Insurance number has been an obligatory part of working in the UK since it was introduced as part of the National Insurance Act in 1911, and ensures that every employed citizen over the age of 16 provides a regular contribution to welfare, healthcare and state pension services.
While it may sound a little complicated, the process is actually relatively straightforward. Read on for all the information you could possible need on the what, why, when and how to get a National Insurance number in the UK, for both EU Residents and Non-EU residents.
What is a National Insurance Number?
Also referred to as an 'NI' number, a National Insurance number is the unique code (made of numbers and letters) given to every UK citizen who is eligible to pay contributions. Residents automatically receive one just before their 16th birthday, and your NI number remains the same for life, even if you marry, change names or move abroad.
The National Insurance number records your personal National Insurance contributions and taxes, for every job you have during your lifetime. It also allows you access to NHS services, benefits, and to register to vote in the UK elections.
When do you need one?
You can only apply for a National Insurance number once you're in the UK and have a postal address and phone number. However, it is possible to start your new job in the UK before your National Insurance number has arrived.
It's a relatively common situation and your employer can provide you with a temporary number, but you will need to organise your permanent NI number as soon as possible (see below for details on how).
Who needs one?
Everyone over the age of 16 who is either employed or self-employed in the UK, needs an NI number. As soon as your income rises above a certain threshold, you are eligible to pay taxes and National Insurance contributions.
For the 2015/16 tax year, this threshold is £155 per week to pay National Insurance contributions, and you'll be required to pay 12% of your income as a contribution.
Process for European Citizens
Unfortunately, you cannot apply for a National Insurance number online. Applicants must call the Jobcentre Plus - National Insurance number allocation service to request one.
Phone: 0345 600 0643
Opening hours: Monday to Friday, 8am to 6pm
During the call you will be asked a few questions about your residential and employment status, and will be given an appointment at your local Job Centre Plus, depending on availability. You'll then be sent a text and a letter to confirm this appointment. On the day, make sure you bring all your identification documents such as:
- passport/identity card
- residence permit
- birth/adoption certificate
- marriage/civil partnership certificate
- driving licence
- work contract
- proof of employment/studies
- proof of address (rental agreement, letter or bill)
You'll be asked a few questions about your reasons for needing a National Insurance number, and if everything is in order after filling out a few forms, you should be sent your number within three weeks.
Process for Non-European Citizens
The process of applying for a National Insurance number is the same for Non-EU citizens, although you must have the right to work or study in the UK to obtain it.
However, if you come from a country that has a bilateral agreement on social security with the UK (and a certificate to prove it), you do not have to pay National Insurance or obtain a number. These countries are: Barbados, Bermuda, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Canada, Isle of Man, Israel, Jamaica, Japan, Jersey, Guernsey, Republic of Korea, Macedonia, Mauritius, Montenegro, Philippines, Serbia, Turkey, and the USA.
What if you lose your National Insurance card?
If you lose your National Insurance Card but have used the number for any previous or current employment, you should be able to find it on your tax return, payslips or P60. If not, you can either phone the National Insurance helpline and answer a few questions, or fill out form CA5403 on the official government website and send it to the National Insurance Office to get written confirmation of your number. HM Revenue and Customs are unable to tell you your National Insurance number over the phone.
National Insurance Helpline: 0300 200 3502