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How do I get a National Insurance number?
One of the most important things you need to do on arrival in the UK for the first time is to obtain a National Insurance number (NINO), if you want to work or claim benefits.
What is a National Insurance number?
A NINO ensures that the National Insurance contributions (NIC) or taxes you pay are properly recorded on your HMRC record. There is more general information about NINOs in the Tax basics section.
Having a NINO does not mean that you have the right to work in the UK, so you should expect your employer to carry out checks to ensure that you have the right to work in the UK – they face sanctions if they do not.
A NINO beginning with the letters ‘TN’ is a temporary (TN) NINO – you may have one of these if you have worked in the UK in the past. TN numbers are not permitted to be used anymore and will not be accepted by HMRC.
Expatriate employees (that is, those seconded into the UK from an overseas employer) may be issued with numbers in the format 67 F5 76 88 to act as a reference for their record with HMRC.
Where do I get a National Insurance number from?
In England, Scotland and Wales the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) issues NINOs. For individuals who live in Northern Ireland, the Department for Social Development (DSD) issues them.
For details of how to apply for a National Insurance number, please see GOV.UK. However, please note that at the time of writing, it is only possible to apply for a National Insurance number in England, Scotland and Wales if you have entered the UK on a visa. This is because the Department for Work and Pensions is able to validate such applications with the Home Office. Due to coronavirus, it is not currently possible to apply for a National Insurance number in Northern Ireland or if you have entered the UK prior to 31 December 2020 without requiring a visa (for example, if you are an EU national). We understand that the Department for Work and Pensions is developing a digital solution for NINO applicants whose identity has already been verified by another UK government department. For updates on this, please check GOV.UK.
As we highlight below, you can still start work in the UK without a National Insurance number provided you can prove your right to work in the UK. If you are able to apply for a National Insurance number, you should tell your employer that you have applied for one and then give it to them when you have received it. If you are not currently able to apply for a National Insurance number because of the processing restrictions, you should inform your employer accordingly and regularly check GOV.UK for updates. You should apply for a National Insurance number as soon as you are able to.
For further information on starting work or claiming benefits without a National Insurance, see our separate guidance at Coronavirus: problems getting a National Insurance number.
What is a National Insurance interview?
During the telephone call the adviser will make sure that you need a NINO and may arrange for an interview.
The interview will usually be one-to-one (unless, for example, an interpreter is required) and the purpose is to find out why you need a NINO and whether you can be given one. DWP will also need to confirm your identity and this part of the interview (sometimes called the ‘evidence of identity interview’) may be needed by HMRC for benefits such as tax credits and child benefit.
The interviewer will ask you questions about your background and circumstances and ask to see all your official documents, including your passport and any other proof of identity documents, such as national identity card, residence permit, birth certificate, driving licence, marriage or civil partnership certificate. You should take the original documents with you to the interview.
Jobcentre Plus will write to you following the interview to let you know whether or not your application was successful. If it was successful, they will send a NINO to you. It is important to keep the letter as a reminder of the number as plastic NINO cards are no longer issued.
Please note that you can start work before your NINO arrives if you can prove you have the right to work in the UK. You should tell your employer that you have applied for a NINO and give it to them when you have it.
Who needs to know my National Insurance number?
There is a list of people who may need to know your NINO in the Tax basics section.
It is important not to give your NINO to anyone who does not need to know it. You should treat your NINO as confidential.
What do I do if I lose or forget my National Insurance number?
There is information on what you should do if you lose or forget your NINO in the Tax basics section.