National Insurance is simply a type of tax which employers, employees, and those who are self-employed pay money into the Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs (HMRC). It is used to fund state benefits, such as the State Pension and Maternity Allowance.

For those coming from Australia think of a National Insurance Number like a Tax File Number, for Kiwis it is similar to an Inland Revenue Department (IRD number) or for Canadians it is similar to your Social Insurance Number (SIN).

This is the unique number provided to you once your application has been successful. You will receive a letter that will include the National Insurance number which will be two letters, six numbers and another letter, for example, SR 123456 A.

The number will be used by the HRMC use to track the amount you have contributed and therefore what you are entitled to.

You can find your National Insurance number:

  • on your payslip
  • on your P60 (end of year tax summary)
  • on letters about your tax, pension or benefits
  •  in the National Insurance section of your personal tax account.

Applying for National Insurance

Where do I get a National Insurance Number From?

To get a National Insurance number you will need to apply by phone. The line is open Monday to Friday from 8am to 6pm, the phone number is 0345 600 0643.

Just to note that numbers that start with 0345 can be charged at a higher rate depending on whether it is a mobile, landline and the phone company you are using. Here are some approximate costs you can expect, for a landline phone for approximately one minute are 9p and a mobile phone for approximately one minute are between 3p to 55p.

Alternatively, you can pay a company to organise this for you. Companies will offer starter kits, for example, 1st Contact and Britbound offer these. It will take the stress out if setting up a bank account and national insurance.

I recommend the package called ‘The Social One’ with Britbound which will set you back £75. I am not affiliated with Britbound, they were just awesome when I moved to the UK.

What Happens When You Apply for a National Insurance Number?

Jobcentre Plus will advise whether you need to attend an ‘Evidence of Identity’ interview or send you a postal application.

If you require an interview confirm the date, time and location of your interview and what information/documentation you need to support your application.

 A post application will require you to fill out the form and attach the relevant information. For example, mine I attached a copy of my passport and visa with in the application.  

As I mentioned above I used a company to apply for my National Insurance number and it was the simple post application.

National Insurance Number Interview

The Jobcentre may ask you to attend an interview during the application process. If you are requested to attend a national Insurance number interview, you will be asked about your circumstances and why you need a National Insurance number so nothing to scary. You will also need to bring the supporting documents to bring to prove your identity, such as:

  • passport or identity card
  • residence permit
  • birth or adoption certificate
  • marriage or civil partnership certificate
  • driving licence

Can I apply for a National Insurance Number Before I Move to the UK?

You need to be in the UK to apply for your National Insurance Number (NIN) so this cannot be done before you arrive.

There is one exception to the rule which is on some types of visa, you may have a National Insurance (NI) number printed on the back of your biometric residence permit (BRP). If this is the case you will not need to apply for a National Insurance Number.

Do I Need to Have a Secure Address to Apply?

Yes, you do need a secure address and cannot be a hotel, hostel or B &B. This is the part I struggled with when I first moved here! I was going around in circles without having a secure address and this was the main reason why I ended up using Britbound. They provide a secure address that I could use which just made the whole start-up process easier. To find out more about the getting an address here.

The important thing to remember is that the address used for your NI application is going to become the default mailing address for any correspondence from the HMRC. If you do use a temporary address make sure you add this to your change of address checklist.

National Insurance Payments

How Much Will I Pay?

National Insurance is based on your gross earnings so if you earn more than £162 a week (this is the figure for the tax year 2018 to 2019) then you will have to pay NICs. Just like any tax this will vary depending on how much you earn will reflect how much you pay.

For 2018 to 2019 tax year you will pay:

£162 to £892 a week (£702 to £3,863 a month)     12%

Over £892 a week (£3,863 a month)                        2%

As an employee, the money you earn (your salary or hourly wage) is called your gross pay. When deductions from your gross pay such as tax and National Insurance have been taken off, the amount left (and what is paid into your bank account) is called your net pay. You can see what your gross pay was and how much has been deducted on your payslip.

When do I Pay National Insurance?

National Insurance contribution is taken from your gross pay (your salary or hourly wage). When you receive your payslip, it will state the amounts that have been deducted for National Insurance and Income tax. You won’t pay this if you do not meet the tax threshold.

If you are self-employed then you will need to set up a regular payment to the HMRC to cover this requirement.

Will I have to pay National Insurance? And Is National Insurance essentially another tax?

Yes, anyone working in the UK will have to National Insurance. You will always see two tax lines on your payslips so Income tax and National Insurance number.

What do National Insurance payments pay for?

Your National Insurance contributions will go towards various state benefits and services, including:

  • The NHS
  • The State Pension
  • Unemployment benefits
  • Sickness and disability allowances

Other Handy National Insurance Information!

Who Needs to Know My National Insurance Number?

Once you get your National Insurance there are a couple of people that will need to know about your National Insurance number will be companies that have an input or output for tax, so:

  • HM Revenue & Customs (‘HMRC’)
  • Employers and pension providers
  • Department for Work and Pensions
  • the Student Loans Company
  • Banks and building societies if you want to open an ISA.

What Do I Do If I Lose or Forget My National Insurance Number?

If you have lost or forgotten your National Insurance number you can either contract the HM Revenue and Customs, complete the online form on the HMRC website here or call the National Insurance enquiries helpline on 0300 200 3500 (lines are open 8am to 5pm, Monday to Friday).

Can I Start Work Without a National Insurance Number?

Yes, you can start work without a National Insurance number. Employers should understand that organising a NI number for the first time is a process and will take a few weeks.

Smaller companies may not be familiar with employing someone who has headed here from overseas to work and could expect you to have one when you start.  If you are met with any employer who tells you they cannot employ you without an NI number, this is incorrect and you can refer to the HRMC which states that you can start without a NI Number.

Can My Employer Pay Me Without a National Insurance Number?

Yes, your employer can pay you without a National Insurance Number and you will be generally be taxed with an emergency tax code until you have been issued with an NI number from HMRC. Emergency tax is at a higher rate.

Is National Insurance a Replacement for Travel Insurance?

National Insurance is not a replacement for travel insurance as it is just another form of tax. Some of the tax contributions does go towards funding the National Health Service (NHS) which is where the confusion comes from.

Being covered by the NHS (for EU passport holder or visa that allows you to work or study here for a period of more than six months) means you do not pay to see a doctor or visit a hospital. You can additionally pay for private health insurance as well, this is down to personal choice and whether you want to.

Do I Still Need to Get Travel Insurance?

Yes! National Insurance is not the same as travel insurance. It won’t cover you for cancelled flights, lost luggage and all of those added extras that travel insurance comes with. I recommend that you get travel insurance for the first few months whilst you establish yourself in the UK.

I Have Paid an Immigration Health Surcharge (IHS) Fee – Do I Still Have to Pay National Insurance?

Yes, you will need to pay both. It is one of those “unfair” things that the government has added to those coming to the UK on visas.

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