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How to apply for a National Insurance number in the UK

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A detailed guide for International Doctors on the process of applying for your National Insurance Number


If you plan to work, claim benefits, apply for a student loan, or pay Class 3 voluntary National Insurance contributions in the UK, then you need to have a National Insurance number. We’ve written this blog to help you understand exactly what National Insurance is. We also explain how to apply for your National Insurance number and what to do if you lose or forget it.


What is National Insurance?

In the UK, you pay National Insurance contributions on your earnings above a certain threshold. Your National Insurance contributions are credited to your personal National Insurance record. They also count towards the UK state pension and state benefits. 

You will pay National Insurance with your tax and if you’re an employee. This will be deducted from your monthly pay automatically so your pay-slip will show your NI contributions. 

You can find further information about the rates, allowances and thresholds that would be applicable to you by clicking here.

What is a National Insurance number?

National Insurance numbers are set by the Department of Work and Pensions. The number, which is unique to you, is made up of 2 letters, 6 numbers and a final letter (i.e QQ 12 34 56 A).

You will be assigned one National Insurance number throughout your life that will be used by the UK government. They will use it to track how much tax you have paid, your tax allowances and how much state pension you may be owed. 

How do I apply for a National Insurance number in the UK?

UK nationals should receive an NI number automatically prior to turning 16. 

If you are moving to the UK and you do not have an NI number already allocated on your biometric residence permit, then you will need to apply for one. You can only apply for an NI number once you’re in the UK. 

To apply for a National Insurance number, you must:
  • Be in England, Scotland, Wales, or Northern Ireland
  • Have entered the UK on a visa
  • Have the right to work in the UK
You will need to call the National Insurance number application line.

The processing centre are then likely to arrange an ‘evidence of identity’ interview for you. This is a one-to-one interview (unless, for example, an interpreter is required) where you are asked questions about why you need an NI number. It will also cover your background, and your circumstances. You will also need to prove your identity. 

The processing centre will confirm the date, time and location of your interview. They will also provide you with further details on the information and documents that you will need to bring to support your application. We have listed below some examples of the identity documents which are accepted (note that it is best to bring the original documents and not photocopies):

  • Valid passport (UK or foreign)
  • Current identity card issued by an EEA or EU member state, or Gibraltar
  • Residence permit or residence card, including biometric immigration residency documents
  • Full birth or adoption certificate
  • Full marriage or civil partnership certificate

If you do not have any of the above documents, or any other identity documents, you must still attend the interview. This is because the information you can provide may still be adequate to prove your identity.

During the interview a National Insurance number application form will be completed, and you will also be asked to sign it.

What happens after my interview?

Following your interview, the application centre will write to you to inform you whether the application was successful. If you were unsuccessful you will need to provide any additional information. 

If you are successful then your National Insurance number will be sent via post or by email. It is important to tell your employer your National Insurance number as soon as you know it. 

If you were asked to provide additional information, then you will need to do this by the agreed date which you were given. 

Who needs to know my National Insurance number?

As mentioned earlier in the article, your National Insurance number is unique to you. You should not share your National Insurance number with anyone who does not need it. If you do, it may help somebody to steal your identity. Please see below is a list of the organisations that will need to know your NI number:

  • HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC)
  • Your employer
  • The Department for Work and Pensions (which includes Jobcentre Plus and the Pension, Disability and Carers Service). This will apply if you claim state benefits, or in Northern Ireland the Department for Social Development
  • Your local council, if you claim Housing Benefit, or the Northern Ireland Housing Executive
  • Electoral Registration Officers (to check your identity when you register to vote)
  • The Student Loan Company (if you apply for a student loan)
  • Your pension provider (if you have a personal or stakeholder pension)
  • Your Individual Savings Account (ISA) provider (if you open an ISA)
  • Authorised financial service providers who help you buy and sell investments like shares, bonds, and derivatives. To check if your financial service provider is authorised, please click here

Click here to see the up to date list of organisations who will need to know your NI Number.

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.

What should I do if I lose or forget my National Insurance number?

If you’ve lost your National Insurance number, or you’ve simply forgotten it, you can find your National Insurance number on your pay-slip, P60, or letters about tax, pensions, and benefits.

If after checking the above you still cannot find your NI number, you can then contact and ask HMRC to confirm it. You can do this by completing and returning the CA5403 form which you can find by clicking here. You can also call the National Insurance registration helpline and answer some questions.

Please note that HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) will not tell you your National Insurance number over the phone. They will post it to you and it will arrive within 15 working days.

COVID-19: Applying for a National Insurance number

For updated information on applying for your National Insurance Number, such as changes due to COVID-19, please click here.


If you are interested in working in the UK, want to discuss available job opportunities or may have already begun your journey and need further advice, please contact our team today.