The National Insurance Number system was first introduced in 1911 as part of the National Insurance Act and is now needed to work in the UK. A National Insurance Number is used to make sure that every employed adult in the UK contributes to welfare, healthcare, and the state pension and tracks their contributions.

It sounds a little complicated at first but really it’s quite simple. Just read through our guide to what a National Insurance number is and how you can get one.

What is a National Insurance Number?

A National Insurance Number, also sometimes called an NI number or just NINO is a unique code that every UK citizen receives when they become eligible to make contributions. UK residents are automatically given a National Insurance number just before they turn 16 and your NI Number never changes even if you get married, change your name, or even move abroad.

Your National Insurance Number is used to track your National Insurance contributions and tax payments across every job you have for your entire life. It is also your key to NSH services, benefits, and being able to register to vote in the UK.

When You Need a National Insurance Number

You can apply for our National Insurance number when you live in the UK and have a postal address and phone number. Services including NI Apply can take the stress of applying an ensure the process goes through error free.  You can begin working even without your National Insurance number as long as you have (or plan to) apply for one.

This situation is more common than you think and in this situation you are provided with a temporary National Insurance Number you can use until your permanent one arrives in the post.

Who Needs a National Insurance Number

Everyone who is aged over 16 and is employed or self-employed in the UK needs a National Insurance number. When you begin to earn a certain amount of money you are able to pay taxes and National Insurance contributions.

For the tax year of 2015/2016 this threshold is £155 per week to pay National Insurance contributions and your contributions will be equal to 12% of your income.

Process for European Citizens

One of the biggest problems with applying for a National Insurance number is that you can only do so by calling the Jobcentre Plus – National Insurance number allocation service. You can reach them between 8AM and 6PM Monday – Friday by contacting 0345 600 0643.

You can expect to be asked some questions about your residential and employment status and you will arrange an appointment at your local Job Centre Plus. You’ll also receive a confirmation letter and text. There are some documents you need to take to this appointment including:

  • Your passport/ID Card
  • Residence permit
  • Birth/adoption certificate
  • Marriage/civil partnership certificate
  • Driving licence
  • Work Contract
  • Proof of employment/studies
  • Proof of address such as your rental agreement, a letter, or a bill

During this interview you will be asked why you need an NI number and, should everything go well, you’ll be asked to fill out a few more forms before receiving your National Insurance number within 3 weeks.

Process for Non-European Citizens

The good news is that the process for non-European citizens is the same as for European citizens but you will need the right to work or study in the UK to receive your NI Number.

If you come from a country where the UK holds a bilateral agreement on social security (and you have a certificate to prove it) then you will need a National Insurance number and will not pay National Insurance. This list of countries includes; Barbados, Bermuda, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Canada, the Isle of Man, Israel, Jamaica, Japan, Jersey, Guernsey, Republic of Korea, Macedonia, Mauritius, Montenegro, Philippines, Serbia, Turkey and the USA.

What to do if you Lose your National Insurance Number

Should you happen to lose your National Insurance card you can still find out your number on our tax return, payslips or P60 if you used it to work. If not then you can contact the National Insurance helpline and answer some questions or fill out the CA5403 form on the government website and send it into the National Insurance Office. Either way you will receive written confirmation of your number in the mail as HM Revenue and Customs are not legally allowed to disclose your National Insurance number over the phone. The National Insurance Helpline number is 0300 200 3502.