Travelling from overseas and want to work?
Everyone who works in the UK requires a National Insurance (NI) Number. You can start working immediately without one, however you will be charged a hefty emergency tax until yours arrives in the post. You may also also encounter employers that ask for one but who are not aware they can employ you without one. We show you how you can deal with this in our FAQs below, but it is much easier if you have one!
Keep Calm and Get Yours ASAP …
PLEASE NOTE: As over 200 comments below show, getting your NI Number can be a frustrating process. HOWEVER it does not have to be that way!
This page will show how to get one as well as how a service can save you time and stress. We even have our top recommendation.
Also See – FAQs Below
What is a National Insurance Number?
An NI number (often called NIN or NINO) is similar to your Tax File Number in Australia, IRD in New Zealand or SIN number in Canada. In the UK the NI number is also used as a form of identification by many departments including the free NHS healthcare system.
Usually during your first week of work, your employer will ask for your NI Number.
If you don’t have one, your employer has no way of advising the British Tax Department (HM Revenue and Customs) the amounts you need to NI contributions for state pension and the British social security system should be. You must pay emergency national insurance contributions (emergency tax) until you get one – typically a big percentage of your take home pay!
How to get an NI Number
A typical application process can take weeks if not months and involve phone calls, an EOI (Evidence Of Identity) interview, follow up calls and and long wait times and thats assuming everything goes well. Fortunately there is much easier way. A number of companies in the UK exist to help with this process. For as low as £30 there are online services which help in a number of ways:
- Many people can avoid the EOI interview altogether
- If required, the interview can be arranged for you
- The information required for the interview can be pre-checked
- Any changes to interview times, follow up calls, changes of address or other issues that arise can be dealt with by them
My advice is simple – Save yourself a lot of time and trouble by using a reputable service to assist.
Here is our current top recommendation.
If you want to know more about how a service can help – click here – includes a video interview with the UK company recommended.
Now, if you have time and lots of patience you can always get your NI Number without assistance but allow me to explain what makes the NI Number application process so time consuming and stressful.
Call the phone number 0345 600 0643 at Jobcentre Plus during business hours to arrange a national insurance number interview. Be prepared It is usually busy – very busy. The times offered will be during business hours and available times will depend on how busy they are and arranged at an address nearest to you.
Note: For non-EU citizens the interview can be avoided if you use a service.
Prepare documents for interview. After scheduling an EOI (evidence of identity) interview, then you have to gather your documentation for the interview.
Note: For people coming from overseas, it can be challenging because one of the key parts of the process of getting a number is proving your identity which often includes an address and bills in your name. But wait, perhaps you just arrived from overseas. So what do you bring? A service can help to ensure you have the necessary documentation.
Wait or follow up if required. Assuming everything goes well in the interview and you are not invited back – you wait. This step usually takes a few weeks but sometimes months to receive your number and card by mail. Although you do nothing, this step can be the hardest because while you are waiting you are still getting charged emergency tax. You will also often have no idea if your application will be successful or not.
Note: Wait times vary depending on the departments workload, but a service can give you a good indication of the timing because they are dealing with successful registrations each day.
WARNING: Changing your address (which many people do after first arriving to the UK) can result in having your NI number lost in the post (read the comments below, it happens all the time!). One more reason to use a service is that they will help file the necessary change of address paperwork and follow up for you.
Cut the red tape, avoid the frustration
Use a reputable service to assist you in your NI Number application.
- Organise your interview for you (at a time convenient to you) or arrange to avoid it all together
- Make sure you have the identity you need
- Deal with changes to your address and any other issues that may arise
Unfortunately the process of obtaining an NI number normally takes 2 – 6 weeks (sometimes months) from the time you schedule a meeting. The time it takes to get one depends on availability of interview times for your local Department of Work and Pensions (DWP) office and then there is also the time it takes to get your NI number processed. In the meantime, you will be issued with a temporary national insurance number, but this is just to keep track of the extra contributions you will be making until you get your NI card in the mail and advise your employer.
Fortunately there are some paid services that Work and Travel Companies provide that help to avoid a lot of frustration and can ensure maximum speed in the process. For example, if you are non-European you can avoid having to attend the DWP interview. This is due to all the requirements you have to already met to get your visa and is a great way to get a national insurance number online. This itself is well worth the small fee, but where they really come into their own even if you have to attend an interview is in making sure things run smoothly. For example, there are many instances where processing is delayed when one of the requirements of your EOI interview are not met. Initially they assist in filling out the NIN application form. In many cases something as simple as a change of your address (or not having an address) creates bureaucratic confusion which delays getting your number issued. Many problems have been avoided with the help of a service. You can also do it yourself (DIY) and we provide the methods to do it.
However I also want you to know that we get emails daily and many comments of people having issues – here are some from below:
“4 weeks have passed already and I don’t have an interview scheduled and I still haven’t received any forms to fill in” Paolo
“I applied for a NI number and went to an interview, but after (2-4 weeks like the interviewer said) they sent me a letter saying that they declined it.” Hristo
“I filled out the paper Form CA5403, passed in the office HM REVENUE, (and was) told to wait up to 6 weeks. I waited 2 months but nothing … ” Stan
This service is highly recommended and is used by many expats and working holiday makers because you can avoid a lot of hassle when you applying.
Note: If you are British (and in the UK when your were 16 years of age) you will have been sent your NI Number by mail. If you are were not in Britain not in Britain of have misplaced your NI Number there are other ways to get assistance – please see our British section.
Different options apply based on your Nationality
Non-European Economic Area Citizens (Any country outside of Europe)
All European Citizens
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
Q: Do I need an NI Number to work in the UK?
A: Yes and No. No, not initially but eventually yes. You can work immediately without an NI Number however you must start the application process as you will eventually need to provide your employer with your NI Number. Until that happens you will be paying an emergency tax—which could be a large portion of each pay day.
Q: How long does it take to get a National Insurance Number?
A: 2-6 weeks is typical, sometimes months. First you need to schedule an EOI interview or a service will do this for you – if a service can arrange for you to avoid the interview this can save weeks. The wait times are dependent on how busy the office in your area is. After your interview you will still need to wait for your NI Number and card to arrive in the post. This process can take 2-6 weeks, or longer.
Q: Do I need to be in the UK when I apply?
A: Yes. If you are doing it yourself you must be in the UK when you apply. For piece of mind, you can start the ball rolling with a service before you arrive. Knowing exactly what you need and what to do when you get there can be really helpful especially when you are dealing with many other issues like jobs, places to live and settling in.
Q: Can I expedite the process?
A: While using a service doesn’t mean the process is expedited, they can help you avoid the interview process in some cases. They can also ensure your documentation is sufficient and any address changes, etc. are handled correctly, thus reducing complications with your application and ensuring the maximum process speed.
Q: How can I bypass the EOI interview process?
A: Normally, if you are a Non-EU resident you have already submitted much of the information needed through your visa process and are eligible to bypass the interview with the help of a service. If you are British or EU resident you will have to do the interview.
Q: I’m staying with a friend and don’t have any bills in my name. What else is considered proof of address?
A: It is common for new arrivals to the UK to not have sufficient proof of address. In this case, it is highly recommended you use a service that can advise you on how to establish your identity in the UK and obtain the necessary documentation.
Q: I had my interview a couple months ago and still have not received any notifications in the post. What should I do?
A: Unfortunately, the only thing you can do is call the Jobcentre Plus and follow up. This is one reason why using a service is helpful. They can troubleshoot these issues on your behalf and have a better understanding of timing since they handle these requests every day.
Q: I am in the process of applying for an NI Number and have moved. What should I do?
A: If you are scheduled for an interview in the near future try to still attend it. If you are waiting for notification about your NI Number and card contact the Jobcentre Plus right away. If you used a service they will take care of this for you.
Q: My employer says he can’t pay me (or employ me) until I have an NI number. Is this true?
A: No. You are legally entitled to your wages and it will not hinder your employment prospects if you understand the process and can explain it to them. Inform your employer that you are in the process of applying but assure them you are getting one – you will. They will have to pay an emergency tax contribution in the meantime but this does not cost them anything extra – it comes out of your pay. Withholding wages is not legal and understanding the process can be helpful if your new employer is not familiar with hiring people who have just arrived from overseas.
Q: Once I receive my Number can I get the emergency tax I paid back?
A: Yes. Once you receive your NI Number you can enter a claim to receive the money deducted for emergency tax back – usually when you submit your tax return at the end of the financial year.
Q: Other than an NI Number, do I need anything else to work in the UK?
A: Having an NI number does not equate to having a right to work in the UK. Normally a visa (specifically one allowing you to work) is also required. We do not specialize in offering information about visas. We suggest using a visa company if you have questions about your work status.
Q: I am working outside of the UK but for a UK-based company. Do I need an NI Number?
A: Normally, if you are working abroad (not residing in the UK) you should not need one (as you will be taxed in your country of residence). We do not specialize in offering information about taxation. We suggest contacting your employer or a personal accountant for further information.
Q: I had an NI Number before. I’m going back to the UK. Do I need to apply for a new one?
A: No. You will only ever have one NI number. It is associated to your person forever. If you have misplaced your NI Number you can learn about how to retrieve your NI number.