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What you need to do ASAP: Get an NI Number

Why and how to get one quickly without loss of income or unnecessary frustration

Links to information below:

What is a National Insurance (NI) number - UK?

Your UK National Insurance number is a unique personal number allocated to you that is used to identify you to HM Revenue & Customs and the Department of Work and Pensions.

It ensures the Government correctly records any contributions you are entitled to. Your National Insurance contributions go towards the UK social security and the state pension system.

Everyone who works in any capacity in the UK will need to register for an national insurance number.

When do I need to use my NI Number?

If you intend to work in the UK, you need to apply as possible. You will need to quote your NI number to your employer's accounts department for taxation purposes and contributions will be taken each time you are paid.

If you don't have a NI number, you will be required to contribute more than normal in NI payments so it's wise to get yours as soon after arriving in the UK as possible. Further to this you will not be able to claim any of your overpaid taxes back or opt to get a NI rebate. It is therefore vital to obtain this number when you start working.

The Revenue and Customs Department (the HMRC) no longer accept 'temporary' National Insurance numbers. After applying you will receive your National Insurance Number and card in the post a while later and you should ensure your employer is aware of this number.

If you have employment:

It is easier to apply for a NI Number once you have secured employment however it is better to get it ASAP so that you pay less emergency tax. In order to apply for the number you will need documentation to do with employment (such as a contract or letter from your employer).

If you are not yet employed:

If you have not yet secured employment you can still apply however certain documents will be required (such as job rejection letters, letters from your recruitment agent etc). Unless you use a service (see Online services below) in which case they can assist you with this.

Go to the DWP website for more specific information on National Insurance »

How do I get my National Insurance (NI) Number?

There are two ways to apply:

DIY

When you arrive in the UK, to apply yourself you will need to make an NI number appointment or (called Evidence of Identity (EOI) Interview) at your local Job Centre Plus.

Contact: Job Centre Plus
0845 600 0643
Monday to Friday 8am–6pm
Bring to appointment:
  • Proof of your identity
  • An account of all your past years of work and travel
  • How and when you arrived in the UK

Often this phone line is very busy so you should call when you have time to sit on hold for a while! It can be a lengthy process so be prepared.

They will book you an appointment at your nearest Jobcentre office (so it might be a good idea to have a London A to Z handy when you call so you can get your geographical bearings). After you get an appointment the process often takes a few months, so it is highly advisable to do it as soon as possible or use a service to assist you.

NI Number Services Online

Many people who are working and don't yet have a National Insurance number will be taxed at a much higher emergency rate. To avoid this, it makes sense to get your number as soon as possible. Unfortunately, the process sometimes takes months and can be time-consuming and frustrating to do yourself.

We have also found that people who do it themselves often run into problems:

Example 1: Change of address

Once you have gone through the application process and interview (if required) there are at least several weeks of waiting for your NI number to arrive in the post. In this time, many people who have just arrived in the UK change their address often because of a new job or change in living arrangements. Unfortunately this often leads to lost numbers, more calls, waiting and then the retrival process. In the meantime you continue to pay emergency tax. All this can be easily avoided. 

Example 2:  Proving your identy

One of the most important parts of getting an NI number is proving your identity. For some people this presents a big challenge because they do not have sufficient enough proof like bills in your name with a UK address or a UK bank account. Having someone to guide you through the application and interview process removes all these concerns. 

There is a way to avoid a lot of frustration and income lost:

In the UK or Overseas

We recommend the Easy National Insurance service from 1st Contact for a bargain £30.

To save save time and hassle you can get the ball rolling before you leave home or when you arrive (the sooner the better).

How It Works:

A consultant at 1st Contact first assesses your individual needs then does all the checking, calling and organising to make sure everything runs smoothly.

After registering your details with the DWP they arrange for the signature application form to be posted out to you or alternatively book your (EOI) evidence of identity interview (if required) for you. In many cases they can help you avoid the EOI meeting completely.

To avoid any issues they check your application form for accuracy before submitting.

In addition, they can also provide you with a letter of employment if you haven't started working yet or if you do not yet have an address they can provide one for you.

Steps:

  1. Complete the online questionnaire
  2. Sign the postal application form OR attend the Evidence of Identity Interview that 1st Contact will arrange for you
  3. Receive your NI Number in 2-4 weeks (often sooner!)
  4. Ensure everything runs smoothly and if you change address they will follow up for you.

Click here if you would like more information on getting a national insurance number

FAQs

Do you need a HMRC NI Number to work?

Yes you do. A common misconception however is that you need one to start work - you do not. However employers may ask for proof of your NI Number when you apply see that you can can legally work in the UK. If they do ask, simply explain that you are applying and offer other proof of your ability to work legally in the UK. 

Do you need an NI Number card?

No. Although you may have one from the time when you first applied. All you need is the actual number. In fact, if you lose the original you will no longer be re-issued with one by the HRMC.

How soon can I expect it? 

Anywhere from 2 weeks to a few months. Its arrival date depends on several factors including your EOI interview and wait times at your local office. You can schedule the EOI interview yourself or hire a service to do so, but keep in mind, a service can help you avoid the interview altogether, saving a lot of time. Once the interview process is complete, you will wait up to 6 weeks for your notification to arrive in the mail.

Is there a way to speed up the process?

If you are able to eliminate the interview (by using a service) this is a significant time saving. Apart from this, how long it takes to get your NI can be significantly increased if your initial application is not complete and requires additional information or another interview.

Can I apply from anywhere in the world?

No. You must be in the UK when you apply for an NI Number. However, a service can make sure everything required is set to go for your arrival. 

Do I have to complete an EOI interview? 

If you are an EU resident, then you must finish the interview process. For citizens outside the EU and Britain, a service can help you sidestep the interview due to the biometric testing which has already been done as part for your visa process. 

How do I provide proof of address if I am still looking for a place to live?

This is a common challenge faced by many new arrivals. One of the services functions is to provide a forwarding address should you need it or alternately if you change address, they know how to ensure you end up getting it. 

I finished my interview months ago, and I never received my number. What are the next steps?

To learn why your application is delayed, you must call Jobcentre Plus. A service is particularly helpful in this situation as they deal with this issue daily, and they know exactly how to advocate on your behalf.

I started the application process, but I relocated to a new address before finishing. What are my options?

Be sure to attend your interview if you haven’t already. Call Jobcentre Plus immediately if you’ve already interviewed and are just waiting on your number. If using a service, they will handle the problem for you.

Can I be hired and receive a income without one?

Yes. By law, the lack of an NI number should not prevent you from being employed or paid. If your employer insists on having an NI Number before hiring, explain that you are in the process of securing one. 

I left the UK long ago, but I’m finally returning. Is my previous number still valid?

Yes. You are only assigned one NI Number in your lifetime. If you have forgotten, you can recover it. It does not expire. 

National Insurance

Can I get a rebate on my National Insurance contributions when I leave the UK?

Sort of... Most working travellers are in the UK for a good time and not necessarily a long time so many won't be around to claim their National Insurance contributions in the UK when they reach retirement age. The UK government will not refund your NI contributions when you go home.

However there is way to get something back from your contributions. By opting to 'contract out' your contributions you put them in an approved private pension that you can transfer back home. You will not be able to get the full amount back, but it can translate into a significant rebate. Check if your employer runs a contracted out pension scheme.