Step 2: What is a National Insurance Number and how can you get one?

If you move to the UK and plan on working here, one of the first things you’ll need to do is apply for a National Insurance Number.

You can only apply for one once you’re in the UK, so it’s best to start the process as soon as possible once you arrive as it can take a few weeks to receive your number.

What is a National Insurance Number?

It’s a unique number used to identify you to HM Revenue Customs and the Department of Work and Pensions. More importantly, it ensures that your contributions and tax that go towards the UK social security and the state pension programme are recorded properly.

Anyone aged 16 or over, who works in the UK, needs to apply for one, and you must have the right to work in the country.

Why do you need one?

You need a National Insurance number to legally work in the UK, as it’s important that all of your contributions and taxes are recorded. This way you’ll have access to services like the NHS and benefits. You also need one to open up a bank account, and in some cases, to rent a flat.

Also, if you don’t have one, you’ll end up paying more taxes than normal, in what’s called an emergency tax. Your NI can also make getting employment a little bit easier, as it’s needed to set up payment slips.

Can you start working without one?

While you do need one to work, a common misunderstanding is that you need one to start work. Employers ask for it to ensure that you can legally work in the UK, but if you don’t have it yet simply explain to them that you are in the process of applying and will inform them right away when you receive the number.

In the meantime, if you can, offer other proof that you are able to work in the UK.

How do you apply?

To apply, you must first call Jobcentre Plus to make an appointment for what’s called an “Evidence of Identity” interview. The phones are often quite busy, so be prepared to sit on hold for a bit!

Telephone: 0345 600 0643
Hours: Monday to Friday, 8am to 6pm / closed on weekends

They will ask you some questions over the phone about your move here and then schedule you an appointment at your nearest Jobcentre office; you will receive a letter in the post to confirm the date and time. The letter will also specify which documents you will need to bring to the interview – they will usually include papers such as your passport, birth certificate or proof of address.

What happens after you apply?

If they asked you for any other documentation, you will need to get this to them by the agreed date. Otherwise, all that’s left to do is wait. It can take on average about 2-6 weeks for your number to arrive.

Sometimes it might happen that you could move during the middle of the process. Don’t stress too much – simply contact them again and make them aware of the change of address and they will update their records of where to send your number.

What if you lose your National Insurance number?

First try looking for the number on your payslips, your P60, or on any letters about your tax, pension or benefits. If you still can’t find it, you have two options:

  • Fill in the form CA5403 and send it off
  • Call the National Insurance Number helpline. Note – they can’t give it to you over the phone for security reasons, but will post it to you. It should arrive within 10 working days.
    Telephone: 0300 200 3500
    Hours: Monday to Friday, 8am to 8pm / Saturday, 8am to 4pm / closed on Sundays and bank holidays

Once you have your National Insurance number, you’re able to really get the ball rolling on other tasks you need to do when you move, like opening up a bank account or getting a flat.

Stay tuned for the following step of our guide as we help you continue on your way to settling in your new home – next week we talk all about flat searching.