An NI number or national insurance number is a unique personal number that is used by HM Revenue & Customs and the Department of Work and Pensions to identify you and to record any contributions you are entitled to. All of your contributions go towards the UK social security and state pension system. If you wish to work in the UK a National Insurance (NI) number is required.
Who needs a national insurance number?
- Anyone who works in the UK or intends to work must have an NI number.
- An NI is sometimes referred to as a ‘social security number’ in the UK
- You must have the right to work or study in the UK in order to apply for and receive a NI number. This applies to EU citizens as well.
- Employers will always ask for your number before you start work. (Note that you do not have to have a NI card. The number alone is sufficient.)
- Contribution will be taken each time you are paid.
- You can only apply for a NI number once you arrive in the UK.
- It is possible to apply for an NI number once you have taken or been offered a job. Sending any job documentation with your application can speed the process. You will pay emergency tax, which is greater than the normal contribution, until the NI is issued.
- NI numbers do not expire. Once issued the number remains valid even if you leave the country for extended periods of time.
What do I need a national insurance number for?
Anyone coming to the UK to work will need to apply for an NI number. NI numbers are automatically sent to British Citizens when they turn 16.
The application process starts by calling the Job Centre Plus number and making an appointment. The lines are often quite busy so it is best to be prepared for long on-hold times.
Once connected the representative will set up an Evidence of Identity Hearing at a local Job Centre Plus office. The appointment for a hearing may be up to several months away. Even though you may not need all of them, you should be prepared to bring the following documents with you to the hearing.
- Passport or identity card
- Residence permit
- Birth or adoption certificate
- Marriage or civil partnership certificate
- Driving license
- An account of previous work experience
- Information on when and how you arrived in the UK
Applicants will be told at the hearing the approximate wait time to receive their number. This can be as little as two weeks to several months.
Alternative Application Methods
Often those newly arriving in the UK face certain problems when applying for their NI number. One of the most common is the lack of a permanent address as living arrangements may not have been finalised. Since the card and number is sent by post this can result in delays due to lost or misdirected mail.
There are a number of services throughout the UK that will help new UK residents obtain their NI number such as 1st Contact. For a relatively small fee (usually around £30) the company will help the applicant with proving their identity, work with the applicant throughout the process and ensure they receive the card if they change address or workplace. Often the services are able to bypass the Evidence of Identity Hearing, although the same documentation will be needed. The services usually promise that the card will be issued with four-to-eight weeks after the identity hearing.