If you're entitled to a National Insurance number but don't have one, you can apply. You'll need one in certain circumstances, such as claiming state benefits, applying for a student loan or when working. You can start work without one but you'll need to apply straightaway. If you live in the UK you'll normally receive one automatically at age 16.
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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).
You can find out more about National Insurance numbers, including what they're used for and why you need to keep yours safe, by following the link below.
You'll be sent a National Insurance number automatically just before your 16th birthday if both of the following apply:
If you're between 16 and 20 years old and haven't received a National Insurance number contact the National Insurance Registrations Helpline on Tel 0845 915 7006 for advice. Lines are open 8.30 am to 5.00 pm Monday to Friday.
If you don't already have a National Insurance number you must apply for one in the following circumstances. How you apply varies, as explained below.
If you need to claim benefits and/or tax credits (or if your partner needs to claim benefits and/or tax credits for you) you will need a National Insurance number. Your application will be made as part of the benefit claim process.
If you start work or set up as self-employed you must apply for a National Insurance number if you do not have one. You do not need to have a plastic National Insurance number card. If you have the right to work in the UK, you will need to telephone Jobcentre Plus on Tel 0845 600 0643 to arrange to get one. Lines are open 8.00 am to 6.00 pm Monday to Friday and are normally less busy before 9.00 am. They may require you to attend an 'Evidence of identity' interview - see section 'What happens when you apply for a National Insurance number'.
You must apply for a National Insurance number to start work but you don't need to have a plastic National Insurance number card.
If you're not a UK citizen and want to find out whether you have the right to work in the UK, please read the guide 'Documents you will need before you can work in the UK'. The other two guides below explain how you'll pay tax and National Insurance when working.
If you've applied for and have been awarded a student loan and you don't have a National Insurance number, the Student Loans Company will ensure that Jobcentre Plus arrange for you to get one. They may require you to attend an 'Evidence of identity' interview - see the later section '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 will confirm the date, time and location of your interview and what information/documentation you need to support your application.
The interview will usually be one-to-one (unless, for example, you need an interpreter). You will be asked questions about why you need a National Insurance number, your background and circumstances.
You will also have to prove your identity. Bring as many 'identity documents' (originals, not photocopies) as you can to your interview. Examples of documents which count are:
If you don't have any of these - or other - identity documents you still must go to the interview. The information you are able to provide might be enough to prove your identity.
During the interview a National Insurance number application form will be completed and you will be asked to sign it.
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.
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.
If you would like written confirmation of your National Insurance number in Welsh telephone the HMRC Welsh Language Helpline on 0300 200 1900. Lines are open from 8.30 am to 5.00 pm Monday to Friday.
If you've lost or can't remember your number, you might be able to find it on official paperwork like:
If you still can't find your number, you can ask HMRC to confirm it by:
HMRC cannot confirm your National Insurance number by telephone. They will write to you instead.
As announced by the Chancellor on 10 September 2010, HMRC no longer issues replacement National Insurance number cards. You don't need to have a card - it's the number that's important. If you can't remember your number, find out what to do by reading the section above.