How to apply for a National Insurance number

How to apply for a National Insurance number as an international student

 This article was updated by the Great British Mag content team on 12 October 2021

If you’re an international student and you want to work in the UK, then you’ll need a National Insurance number, NI number for short. Here we answer the most common questions and walk you through how to apply for a NI number.

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What is a National Insurance number used for?

This ID, which is made up of a series of numbers and letters, proves you are legally allowed to work in the UK. Employers use it to work out the tax you need to pay and the UK government use it as a record that you have paid the right amount of tax.

Do students have to pay National Insurance?

Yes, anyone who earns more than £162 a week must pay National Insurance Contributions (NIC) irrespective of whether they’re in full-time education and this tax is deducted alongside your Income Tax, by your employer.

How much National Insurance contribution will I pay?

If you have a job whilst you are studying you will most likely play Class 1 National Insurance contributions. The rates for most people for the 2020 to 2021 tax year are: 

£183 to £962 a week12%
Over £962 a week 2%

How do I apply for a National Insurance number?

You can only apply once you have moved to the UK by calling the National Insurance number application line. The number to call if you live in England, Scotland and Wales is 0800 141 2075 and 0845 600 0643, if you are a student in Northern Ireland.

You will need to provide your:

  • Full name
  • Date of birth
  • Address (including postcode)
  • Date of arrival in the UK
  • Current employment status

Have your passport, biometric residence permit and visa information on hand, as you might be asked questions about them.

You might be asked to attend an interview by the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) at your local Jobcentre Plus. If this happens, the DWP will let you know which documents you must take to the meeting, such as a passport and letter from your employer.

Will my biometric residence permit (BRP) include my National Insurance number?

If you have a biometric residence permit (BRP) you might have a NI number already. It will be printed on the back of your BRP if you do. If you do not have a National Insurance number, you must apply for one if you plan to work in the UK.

When do I need to get my National Insurance number?

If you intend to work part-time you will need to prove that you can work legally. The easiest way to do this to have a NI number. If it hasn’t come through by the time you start a job then show your employer proof you have applied for one and show them your visa or biometric residence permit.

Do I need a visa to get my National Insurance number?

You need to obtain your visa before you can get your NI number because you will have to provide your visa information when you apply.

How long does it take to get a National Insurance number?

It can typically take eight to nine weeks to get an NI number, if you can apply at least three months before you start looking for part time work.

Is there a fee to get a National Insurance number?

No there is no fee to get a NI number and it roughly takes eight weeks for it to come through. Call the application line on 0800 141 2075 if you live and study in England, Scotland and Wales or 0845 600 0643, if you are studying in Northern Ireland.

What do I do if I lose my National Insurance number?

If you lose the letter with your NI number on it the quickest way to get hold of it is to log onto the HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) website.

If you have used it to access your tax records use the ID and password you set-up and if this is the first time you will have to set-up an account to access your records.

The second way is to look through letters you have received from HMRC. You will find your NI number on these letters. And finally, if you have been working, your NI number will be on your payslip from your employer.

If you have no documentation with your NI number, then call HMRC on 0300 200 3500. It will take them around 15 days to write to you with your NI number.

You may also want to read

How to write a cover letter for a job application 

What is a Biometric Residence Permit? 

What is a graduate scheme and how do I apply?