What is a National Insurance number and why do I need one?

If you want to work in the UK at any time during or after your studies you will need to apply for a National Insurance (NI) number. If you’ve been in the UK for any time you will probably have heard about this number but you may not be clear what it actually is, or how to get one.

There are two forms of tax that you may have to pay when working in the UK – National Insurance Contributions  (NIC) and Income Tax which is paid through Pay as You Earn (PAYE). An NI number has nothing to do with health insurance or any other kind of insurance you might have.

For UK citizens a National Insurance number is issued automatically to everyone at the age of 16.  If you come from outside the UK and want to work, you need to apply to get a number.  This number has two important functions:

  1. it insures that all National Insurance Contributions and income tax are properly recorded against an individual’s name
  2. it acts as a unique reference number for all your tax/employment affairs throughout your working life

Each number is made up of a sequence of letters and numbers in this format QQ 12 34 56 A – everyone’s number is different, and you keep the same NI number throughout your life.

Applying for this number is straightforward – you ring up to request it and you are either then invited for an identity interview or are given a postal application. You can read all about the process in detail on our information sheet – Getting a National Insurance Number

It is important that you know there is no fee payable for this number – unfortunately if you search online for information you might find a site high up in the Google search which requires you to pay a fee. Ignore it – follow the information on Getting a National Insurance Number and come and talk to us if you have any questions or need further help.  You must keep your number safe and not give it to anyone who doesn’t need it. Do not put it on CVs or application forms – especially if these are online as this can help prevent identity fraud.



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