If you want to work when you move to the UK, you’ll need to apply for a National Insurance number. It’s also known as a NINO or NI number. In this article, you’ll learn more about National Insurance numbers, including what they look like and how to apply for one.
What is a National Insurance number?
A National Insurance number is a series of numbers and letters used to register you with Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs (HMRC) and the Department for Work & Pensions (DWP). While HMRC deals with tax collection in the United Kingdom, the DWP is responsible for welfare, pensions and other benefits.
What is National Insurance?
National Insurance is a type of government tax you pay on your earnings. Whenever you’re paid by your employer the tax, known as your National Insurance contribution, is deducted from your salary.
Your National Insurance number helps the HMRC and DWP work out how much you’ll pay in contributions and your entitlement to certain benefits. The money taken from your earnings goes into a pot, from which the government pays state benefits such as statutory sick pay and pensions.
For example, if you become unemployed, your national insurance contributions influence the kind of state support you receive.
Why you need a National Insurance number
Anyone aged 16 or over, who works in the UK, needs to apply for one. You must also have the right to work in the country.
Even if you’ve moved to the UK on a work visa or through naturalisation, you’ll need an NI Number for your employer to set up your payslips.
Although NI numbers are not official forms of ID, they’re sometimes used for identification purposes such as when opening a bank account or renting a flat.
When you receive your National Insurance number, you’ll also get an NI number card, which you can keep in your wallet and show to your bank or landlord if required.
National Insurance number application
You can only apply for your NI number once you’re in the UK. Getting your NI number can take between 3-6 weeks, so it’s best to apply as soon as you arrive.
Your first step in applying for an NI number should be to call Jobcentre Plus on 0345 600 0643. You’ll need to do this to make an appointment for an “Evidence of Identity” or National Insurance number interview at your nearest Jobcentre.
During the call, they’ll also ask some questions about your move to the UK such as your arrival date, circumstances and where you’re currently living. The interview is usually one-to-one unless you need an interpreter.
Jobcentre Plus‘ phone line is open from Monday to Friday, from 8 am to 6 pm.
After the call, you’ll receive confirmation of your interview by post. The letter will also state which original documents (passport, birth certificate, proof of address, etc) you’ll need to bring to the interview. If you don’t have access to all your documents before your interview, you can usually request additional time.
If your circumstances change while you’re waiting for your NI number, simply contact Jobcentre Plus. If you’ve moved house, let them know your new address so that your NI number can be sent there instead.
What does a National Insurance number look like?
The format of a National Insurance number is two prefix letters, six digits and one suffix letter. A National Insurance number looks like this example below:
The suffix letter is usually either A, B, C, or D. However, it can be an F, M, or P, as is the case with temporary NI numbers.
What is a temporary National Insurance number?
If you’ve applied for your NI number but haven’t received it yet, you’re still allowed to apply for jobs and even start working. When this happens, you can work without an NI number on an emergency tax code and temporary NI number.
A temporary NI number means you’ll pay more tax than usual – but only until you’re issued your permanent NI number. Once you get your permanent NI number, you can usually claim your emergency tax back.
You should also make sure your employer updates their records with your new NI number so that you’re taxed properly.
What happens if you lose your National Insurance number?
If you can’t find or remember your NI number, the good news is that it’s still registered with HMRC and the DWP. However, you’ll need to contact the National Insurance number helpline to retrieve your NI number.
Before calling, try looking for your NI number on your payslips, P60 forms or on DWP or HMRC letters. The National Insurance number helpline is usually busy, so checking your documents first may be a better option.
If you still can’t find your NI Number, you can either:
- Fill out a CA5403 form online or
- Call the helpline on 0300 200 3500.
For security reasons, the helpline can’t tell you your number over the phone but will post it to you. The helpline opens from Monday to Friday, from 8 am to 8 pm and on Saturday, from 8 am to 4 pm.