National insurance numbers
If you want to work or claim benefits in the UK, you must have a National Insurance number (NINO). On this page we explain what a NINO is, where to get one and what to do if you lose or forget it.
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National Insurance numbers
A National Insurance number (NINO) is used to uniquely identify you in the UK system. It also ensures that the National Insurance contributions (NIC) or taxes you pay are properly recorded on your HMRC record. To obtain a NINO you must be 16 or over and resident in Great Britain or Northern Ireland.
Your NINO is unique to you throughout your life, but it is not a form of identification. You must never use someone else’s NINO. Every person has their own number and each member of your family aged 16 or over should have their own number.
A NINO is made up of 2 letters, 6 numbers and a final letter, for example QQ 12 34 56 A.
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.
Getting a NINO automatically
You usually get sent a National Insurance number (NINO) just before your 16th birthday. The government uses records for child benefit claims to identify children approaching their 16th birthday.
If your parents or guardians have not claimed child benefit, you will have to apply for a National Insurance number as described below. Your parents may be required to attend an interview in this case.
If you are a looked-after child, your social worker should apply for a NINO for you three months before your 16th birthday.
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.
Applying for a NINO
If you have not been automatically issued with a NINO, you can apply for one.
- Applying for a NINO in England, Scotland or Wales
To apply for a NINO in England, Scotland or Wales, you should apply online. You will have to prove your identity. It can take several weeks for you to get your NINO. There is more information on how to apply and contact details for getting help with your application on GOV.UK.
- Applying for a NINO in Northern Ireland
If you live in Northern Ireland, you can apply online. You will have to prove your identity. Once you have applied and proved your identity, it can take up to 16 weeks for you to get your NINO. There is more information on how to apply, which includes contact details for getting help with your application, from nidirect.
NINOs for migrant workers
If you come to the UK from abroad to work, you will need to apply for a NINO. However, if you have a biometric residence permit, you might have been given a NINO already – check the back of the permit.
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 – the law requires employers to do this.
You may need a face-to-face appointment (interview) as part of your application. 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 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. This might include a 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 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.
Expatriate employees (that is, those seconded into the UK from an overseas employer) may be issued with NINOs in the format 67 F5 76 88 to act as a reference for their record with HMRC.
Starting work without a NINO
If you are over 16 and do not yet have a NINO (including if you have come to the UK to work from abroad), you can still look for and start work, but you must then apply for a NINO immediately.
You can still start employed work in the UK without a NINO provided you can prove your right to work in the UK. You should tell your employer that you have applied for a NINO and then give it to them when you have received it. There is no time limit.
You should also complete the Starter Checklist so that your employer can add you onto the payroll. If you do not have a NINO, you should leave the NINO box blank.
Once you have your NINO, you should give this to your employer as soon as possible. Your employer will send this to HMRC via their payroll submission. HMRC should then be able to match up the tax and NIC that you have already paid via the payroll with your new NINO.
If you are self-employed, you will usually need to register to file a self assessment tax return (through which you pay your tax and National Insurance) by 5 October following the tax year in which you start your self-employment. For example, if you start your self-employment in 2023/24 tax year, you will need to register by 5 October 2024. You will be asked to provide a National Insurance number when you register.
It is important to make sure that you are genuinely self-employed – you or your engager can’t just decide that you are self-employed as it depends on your individual circumstances and is a question of fact. You can read more about this on our page Employed, self-employed or neither.
Usually, if you start self-employment you would need to complete form CWF1. However, if you don’t have a National Insurance number by this point because of a delay in processing your application, it is still possible to register for self assessment by completing form SA1 (instead of form CWF1) and explaining why you do not yet have a National Insurance number in the relevant box. Once you have a National Insurance number, you should notify HMRC separately on 0300 200 3500 of any liability to class 2 National Insurance. If you do not, then HMRC’s systems may reject the class 2 National Insurance paid as part of your self assessment liability, which in turn could affect your eligibility for welfare benefits and future state pension.
Claiming benefits without a NINO
The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) allocates NINOs for benefits purposes if you do not already have one. If you make a claim for benefits and you do not currently have a NINO, our understanding is that this will trigger a National Insurance application. If the application cannot be completed, then the benefit can still be awarded, provided the DWP can verify your identity.
As noted above, for individuals who live in Northern Ireland, the Department for Social Development (DSD) issues NINOs.
Applying for a student loan without a NINO
You must usually provide your NINO when you apply for a student loan. The only exception is if you are an EU student, where you do not have to provide a NINO if you do not have one.
You can find more information on GOV.UK.
Organisations that need to know your NINO
The following organisations may need to know your National Insurance number:
- Employers and pension providers
- DWP (or Department for Communities in Northern Ireland)
- Local council
- Government agencies administering student finance and student loan repayments
- Banks and building societies
- Other financial services providers such as NS&I or providers of Individual Savings Accounts and other financial products
The above is not an exhaustive list, but do take care not to give your NINO to anyone who does not need to know it. Scammers might try to get your NINO, as well as other personal information from you, so you should be aware of protecting yourself from fraud.
If you suspect that someone has stolen your NINO and is committing identity fraud or theft, you should contact HMRC and tell them what you think has happened.
If you have lost or forgotten your NINO
If you lose or forget your NINO, you may be able to find it on official documents – for example, payslips from a job, your tax return, or a PAYE coding notice.
It is also possible to ask HMRC to confirm it by:
- printing a letter from your Personal Tax Account. You can read about Personal Tax Accounts and how to get one in our page Online tax accounts.
- completing form CA5403 ‘Your National Insurance Number’ and sending it to HMRC; or
- contacting the National Insurance numbers helpline if you are in England, Scotland; or Wales; or
- contacting the National Insurance registration helpline if you are in Northern Ireland.
In all cases, HMRC will write to you and confirm the NINO. They will not provide the NINO over the telephone.