⚠️ The UK left the European Union (EU) on the 31 January 2020 and entered a transition period until 31 December 2020, during which EU law continued to apply in the UK. The Trade and Cooperation Agreement between the UK and EU, detailing the UK’s future relationship with the EU from 1 January 2021, was signed on 30 December 2020. The guidance below has been updated as far as possible to reflect the position as we understand it from 1 January 2021. However, we continue to await guidance on some matters and we will update these pages with any relevant changes as soon as possible after that guidance becomes available.
What if I come from a non-EU country with which the UK has a social security agreement?
Migrants who are posted to the UK on assignment from a country with which the UK has a bilateral social security agreement may not have to pay National Insurance contributions (NIC) under the terms of the agreement. We explain further below.
For more information, go to HM Revenue and Customs’ (HMRC) guidance, RDR1, chapter 11. You can find this on GOV.UK.
If you are posted to the UK from a country within the EEA or Switzerland, please see What if I am a posted worker from the EU, Norway, Iceland, Liechtenstein or Switzerland?. The answers to the following questions assume you are posted from a non-EEA/Switzerland country with which the UK has a bilateral social security agreement.
With which countries does the UK have a bilateral social security agreement?
You can find a list of the countries with which the UK has a social security agreement on GOV.UK.
Following the UK’s departure from the European Union, cross-border social security matters between the UK and Switzerland, Norway and Iceland are (temporarily) governed by old social security agreements in place between the UK and these countries. We understand that the UK is seeking to negotiate a multilateral social security agreement with these ‘EFTA’ (European Free Trade Association) countries, including Liechtenstein. You can find more information on the position involving these countries on GOV.UK.
Do I have to pay National Insurance contributions (NIC) in the UK?
Migrants who are posted to the UK from a country with which the UK has a reciprocal social security agreement (sometimes called a Double Contributions Convention or Totalisation Agreement), may not have to pay NIC under the terms of the specific agreement. The countries with which the UK has such agreements are listed above.
You need to consider the terms of the relevant agreement to determine the rules that apply – the relevant agreement is the agreement between the UK and the country to which the employee used to pay contributions (although where three or more countries are involved the position may be more complex). In general, these agreements provide that the migrant has to pay NIC unless:
- they were employed by their employer in the country from which they came to the UK, and
- they were insured under the social security legislation of that country, and
- they were sent to the UK by that employer to work in the UK for a time expected to last no more than the time specified in the agreement.
If you are normally self-employed in a country that has an applicable social security agreement with the UK, and you will also be self-employed in the UK, you may not have to pay UK NIC. Instead, you may remain in your home country social security system.
If appropriate, your home country will issue you with a certificate to confirm that while working in the UK you should continue to pay contributions to your home country and are exempt from paying UK NIC.
However, in most cases, migrants are hired in the UK, so these rules do not apply and the migrant has to pay NIC from day one of working in the UK.
Am I eligible for UK social security benefits?
For migrants covered by a reciprocal agreement, contributions paid to the social security authorities of the UK and the home country in accordance with the agreement are all counted when determining eligibility for benefits payable by each country. The agreement contains detailed rules for different types of benefit, and information on whether an employee will receive benefits from the UK or from their home country.
For migrants covered by a Double Contributions Convention (for example, Japan, Canada and the Republic of Korea) contributions paid to each country will count towards benefits in that country only, according to each country's own rules. There is no amalgamation of contributions for benefit purposes.
What happens to my NIC if I return to a country with which the UK has a reciprocal social security agreement?
Even if you do not claim any benefits in the UK, or are here for just a short time, you cannot usually reclaim NIC when you leave, unless it was paid in error (for example, you paid UK NIC when the agreement stipulated you should have paid in your home country).
The NIC is not strictly transferable to another country's scheme either. However, it may help to determine eligibility to state benefits in that other country.
There are special rules if you come to the UK from one of the countries with which the UK has a social security agreement. Details of how NIC works for someone who has worked in the UK can be found in the individual social security agreements.
There is a list of countries with which the UK has social security agreements on GOV.UK. You may wish to contact the International Pension Centre for more information on the position if you go to such a country.