How to apply for a National Insurance Number (NIN)

Not sure if you need to apply for a National Security Number (NIN)?

If you’ve just moved to London and you have the right to work or study in the UK, then yes, absolutely. When you land in London, call JobCentre Plus and apply as soon as possible to arrange everything you’ll need. You’ll have to go in for an ‘interview’ or fill in some paperwork to prove your eligibility to work in the UK.

The NIN is similar to the Australian TFN, or the American Social Security number. You need one to legally work in the UK. If you’ve applied but don’t get this number before your first pay day (it can take around 2 weeks to process after your interview/paperwork is received), then any money you earn will be taxed at a higher rate.

What is a National Insurance number?

Your National Insurance number is your own personal account number. It is unique to you and you keep the same one all your life. It makes sure that the National Insurance contributions and tax you pay are properly recorded against your name. It also acts as a reference number when communicating with the Department for Work and Pensions and HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC).

Can I apply for a National Insurance Number before I move to the UK?

You may have a National Insurance (NI) number printed on the back of your biometric residence permit (BRP). You don’t need to apply for a National Insurance number if you already have one, or one is printed on your BRP.

If you don’t have a National Insurance number, you must apply but you can only do so once you’re in the UK. You must have the right to work or study in the UK to be eligible.

Can I work in the UK without a NIN?

You can start work before your National Insurance number arrives if you can prove you can work in the UK. You should tell your employer that you’ve applied for one and give it to them as soon as you have it.

Apply for a National Insurance number

You need to apply by phone on the National Insurance number application lines below:
Telephone: 0345 600 0643
Textphone: 0345 600 0644
Monday to Friday, 8am to 6pm

What happens when you apply for a National Insurance number?

Jobcentre Plus will arrange an ‘Evidence of Identity’ interview for you or send you a postal application. If relevant, they’ll confirm the date, time and location of your interview and what information/documentation you need to support your application. As I’m living in the UK on an EU passport, I had to go in for an interview but my friends living here on an Australian working visa only had to do a postal application, so it all depends on your documentation.


National Insurance number interview

Jobcentre Plus may write to you and ask you to come to an interview where you’ll be asked about your circumstances and why you need a National Insurance number.

The letter will also tell you which documents to bring to prove your identity, eg:

  • passport or identity card
  • residence permit
  • birth or adoption certificate
  • marriage or civil partnership certificate
  • driving licence

During the interview a National Insurance number application form will be completed for you to sign, then they’ll let you know how long it’ll take to receive your National Insurance number in the mail.

What happens next?

  • If you were asked to provide additional information you will need to do this by the agreed date. Jobcentre Plus will write and let you know whether your application was successful and what your National Insurance number is.
  • Tell your employer your National Insurance number as soon as you know it. Do not share your National Insurance number with anyone who does not need it as this might help someone to steal your identity.
  • Remember to keep the letter telling you what your National Insurance number is safe as it is a useful reminder of your number. However, the letter on its own cannot be used to prove your identity and you do not need it to apply for a job or before starting to work. It’s the National Insurance number itself that’s important.

7 thoughts on “How to apply for a National Insurance Number (NIN)

  1. Hi there,

    This information has been very helpful but I’m having a real hard time having a proof of residence since I just moved to the UK at the beginning of September. I lived in the US and had bank accounts there but I closed them before I moved here. I can’t even open a bank account for this reason.

    1. Hey Alysid. Yes agreed, sorting out proof of residence can be tricky if you haven’t set up a bank account. If you’re not getting anywhere with banks then you should try an online bank like Transferwise or Monzo. Check out the Borderless account with Transferwise here to see what I mean – . They’re honestly great, I’ve been using them for years. I also have other tips on opening a bank account in the Moving to London eBook Guide if you’re interested:

      For the NI number you just need to give them an address that you can receive mail because that’s where they’ll send your number when it’s ready.

      Hope that helps x

      1. Hey Kamila!

        I managed to create a Monzo account last week and talked to NatWest who told me they’d accept my Monzo online statement to open a bank account!

      2. I apologize for the double post but did you find a job before getting the NIN nor after? I have my appointment on October 7th but I heard the NIN takes time. I just got accepted into medical school but I’m looking for a temporary job in London because I don’t start school until January 2020.

        1. I applied for my NIN in my first week in London so that was organised pretty quickly, it took 2 weeks to arrive in the mail. I didn’t start work until about 6 weeks after arriving. But if you start a job without an NIN, it’s all good so long as you’re going through the process of applying and getting it. Let your employer know you’re waiting on it and pass it on to them as soon as it arrives in the mail to avoid paying a super high tax rate on your first pay cycle.

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