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How to Get a National Insurance Number

Reduce emergency tax and stress

You probably already know, you need an "NI Number" to work in the UK.

Unfortunately some employers often want it before they even hire you because they think you can't work legally. 

Fortunately many employers don't ask, but the truth is it takes up to 16 weeks to get it.

Meanwhile employers in the UK have to tax you at a higher rate - this is called emergency tax and it all goes away as soon as you get your NI Number! 

How to Get One

Essentially there are two ways - Using a Service and DIY.

Which do you choose?

The process of getting your your NI number involves proving you are who you say you are and that you though your identity like a passport.

The Catch 22

When you first arrive in the UK getting an NI number can be hassle along with everything else you need to consider when moving to a new country.

Meanwhile some employers won't hire you without an NI Number!

In this guide, we show how to get one including a service to avoid the frustration and emergency tax - see services online.

We recommend the Easy NINO service from Sable.

Jump Links:

  1. What is a National Insurance Number?
  2. How it Works
  3. How to Get One
  4. FAQs

1. What is a National Insurance Number?

It 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 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 a national insurance number.

Watch This Video First: 

Please Note Update to Video: DWP have now changed the process to an online form (2021). EU passport holders would need to apply for pre-settled status (and already be in the UK prior to 30/12/20). 


Click Here - Discover How a Service Can Make it Easy (takes you to info below)

2. How it Works

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

If you don't have one, you will be taxed more than normal 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 an NI rebate. It is therefore vital to obtain this number before you start working.

The Revenue and Customs Department (the HMRC) no longer issue '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.

2.1 If you have employment:

It is better to get it ASAP so that you pay no emergency tax. 

2.2 If you are not yet employed:

If you have not yet secured employment you can still apply.

The DWP website for more specific information »

3. How to Get One

Jump Links:

  1. DIY
  2. Services Online

3.1 DIY

When you arrive in the UK, to apply yourself you will need to apply online.

It can be a lengthy process so be prepared. 

After you apply, the process usually takes about 16 weeks (but it can be more).

You need to prove your identity in order to get a National Insurance number. If you have any of the following documents, you can use them when you apply:

  • a passport from any country
  • a biometric residence permit (BRP)

You can also use a national identity card from:

  • a country in the EU
  • Norway
  • Liechtenstein
  • Switzerland

You can still apply if you do not have any of these documents but you may need to attend an appointment to prove your identity.

3.2 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 many weeks (sometimes months) and can be time-consuming and frustrating to do yourself.

Common problems:

Example 1: Change of address

Once you have gone through the application process and attended an appointment (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. 

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. Having someone to guide you through the application removes all these concerns. 

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

Video: How to Get Your NI Number

We recommend the Easy NINO service from Sable. You're guaranteed to get your NI number, for only £25.  

To 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:

Complete the online application form.

A consultant will ensure that all of your information is correct.


  1. Complete the online questionnaire (using the link above)
  2. Sable will assist you with preparation of your application and instruct on what to do next
  3. Receive your NI Number in up to 16 weeks.

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

4. FAQs

Do you need one 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 it when you apply to see that you 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 the card originally issued?

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. 

Is there a way to speed up the process?

No. However ensuring everything gets submitted right the first time can minimise delays.

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 interview? 

Interviews for EU, Brits and Passport holders of other nationalities are no longer a requirement. Only Irish passport holders will need to attend an interview. But as they say on their website, "You can still apply if you do not have any of these documents but you may need to attend an appointment to prove your identity." 

I finished my application 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.

Can I be hired and receive an 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 Number in your lifetime. If you have forgotten, you can recover it. It does not expire. 

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 a 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.

Also worth considering the contributions you have made may be small compared to tax you may be entitled to in a refund.