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Updated on 6 April 2024

NIC in cross-border situations

The rules for National Insurance contributions (NIC) are different to those for tax. If you are in a cross-border situation, make sure you understand where you need to pay social security on your earnings. We also have more detailed guidance if you are self-employed or if you work regularly in more than one country.

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Arriving in the UK

Most people who work in the UK are liable to NIC as soon as they start work if they have a UK employer. This includes anyone employed in the UK on a local UK contract, regardless of the country they are from.

Similarly, if you are an international student in the UK aged 16 or over, then you will have to pay UK NIC like any other employed or self-employed individual in the UK.

See our main pages on National insurance for more information.

However, some international assignees who are sent to the UK to work by their overseas employers (known as ‘posted workers’) remain subject to their home country social security legislation rather than pay UK contributions. Similar rules apply if you are self-employed and come to work temporarily in the UK.

If you remain employed overseas while working in the UK (for example, if you are assigned to the UK by a non-UK employer), the applicable rules depend on whether your home country is either:

  1. an EEA country or Switzerland and you are within scope of either the UK’s withdrawal agreement from the EU (and therefore the old co-ordinated rules on social security which applied across the EEA), or the new protocol on social security co-ordination between the UK and the EU,
  2. otherwise, any other country with which the UK has a social security agreement, or
  3. any other country (known as ‘rest of world’ countries).

See the linked pages above for more information.

Leaving the UK

There is general information about how NIC works if you leave the UK to work abroad on GOV.UK.

If you are a posted worker (that is, you are posted to work overseas by a UK employer), then the position depends on which country you are going to and will broadly mirror the reverse situation for an employee sent to the UK from that country. For example, if your employer asks you to work in an EEA country for up to 24 months then you would normally continue to pay UK NIC rather than social security in the other country.

See also our comments on social security on our page Working remotely for a UK employer while overseas.

If your situation is not covered by a bilateral or multilateral social security agreement, or otherwise that agreement states that you are liable to social security in the other country, you will need to consider the domestic rules in that country.

For more detailed information, see also HMRC’s guidanceNI38: Social Security abroad.

Voluntary contributions

If you leave the UK and you are no longer liable to pay mandatory NIC in the UK and are not receiving NIC credits, you should consider whether you are eligible to and wish to make contributions on a voluntary basis.

You might decide to do this if you intend to claim a UK state pension or to return to live in the UK in the future.

Class 3

Class 3 contributions can be paid on a voluntary basis if an individual leaves the UK, so that they can continue to build a UK state pension.

To be able to pay Class 3 NIC on a voluntary basis when you leave the UK, you need to satisfy either of the following conditions:

  • you have lived in the UK for a continuous three-year period at any time before the period for which NIC is to be paid (if you have lived or worked in another EEA country or in Turkey, time spent there might help you to meet this condition), or
  • before you went abroad, you paid a set amount in NIC for three years or more.

Class 2

Class 2 NIC can also be paid on a voluntary basis if an individual leaves the UK. However, this only applies where you will be self-employed or employed abroad. Class 2 contributions are cheaper than Class 3 contributions and protect more benefits than Class 3, so if you want to pay NIC on a voluntary basis, and will be employed or self-employed in some form whilst overseas, it may be cheaper to pay Class 2 NIC.

You can find more on paying UK NIC and qualifying for contributions whilst you are abroad on GOV.UK.

NIC refunds

As explained above, migrants who work in the UK are normally liable to NIC. It is not usually possible to obtain a refund of any of the NIC paid, unless they have been paid in error.

The period during which NIC is paid might be taken into account, however, when determining eligibility to state benefits in another country. If you are returning to a country within the EEA, you will need to determine whether you can ‘aggregate’ periods of contributions in this way under the terms of the UK’s withdrawal agreement from the EU. You may also be able to do this under the new protocol for social security coordination between the UK and the EU. There is more information on this on our page UK state pension if you have lived abroad, though we recommend you seek advice based on your personal circumstances.

Alternatively, you may be able to take periods of contributions into account for determining benefit eligibility if you are returning to a country that has a social security agreement with the UK.


Prior to the UK’s departure from the EU, the social security system of the UK was co-ordinated with that of the rest of the EU, Norway, Iceland, Liechtenstein and Switzerland, such that generally you were only liable to social security in one country at any one time. These rules continued to apply until 31 December 2020 and for some individuals they will continue beyond that date.

From 1 January 2021, a new protocol on social security coordination applies between the UK and EU member states.

For more information, including how to work out which set of rules applies, see NIC for posted workers from the EEA or Switzerland.

UK/EU work location changes and coronavirus

If your work location changed between the UK and the EU solely as a result of coronavirus-related travel restrictions, HMRC said they would disregard this change until 30 June 2022 when deciding whether NIC were due in the UK. However, we understand HMRC and the EU have since agreed that where the work location has changed due to the coronavirus pandemic, this can be disregarded until 30 June 2023. Since 1 July 2023, this relaxation ended and if applicable your position will be determined in accordance with the rules for posted workers, multi-state workers or self-employed workers within the EU.

More information

For more information, see HMRC’s RDR1 guidance (paragraphs 11.1 onwards).

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