Provided certain conditions are met you can continue paying UK National Insurance contributions voluntarily when you are abroad. Voluntary contributions will count towards your State Pension, and protect certain state benefits and allowances if you return to the UK.
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If you want to pay voluntary National Insurance contributions while abroad, either of the following conditions must apply:
There are other criteria you will need to meet, depending on the class of contribution you want to pay. These are covered in the section 'What class of contribution to pay' below.
If you move abroad, continuing to pay UK National Insurance contributions may help keep your entitlement to:
You can find out which UK state benefits depend on National Insurance contributions by following the second link below.
Generally your entitlement to healthcare while abroad is not linked to National Insurance contributions. It is usually decided according to your UK 'residence' - find out what this term means by following the link below.
For more information on how moving abroad or back to the UK may affect your benefits - and for guidance on health cover when abroad or returning to the UK - see the HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC) leaflet NI38 Social Security abroad.
Going abroad - even for less than a tax year - can create gaps in your National Insurance contributions record. This may reduce the number of years that count towards your State Pension and restrict certain state benefits when you return to the UK.
Providing you qualify to make voluntary contributions while abroad, you can normally make up any gap in your National Insurance contributions record for the previous six tax years. If you are abroad or have been abroad and want to find out whether you have a shortfall, contact National Insurance Contributions & Employer Office - International Caseworker.
Before deciding to pay voluntary contributions you should consider the Government's proposals for simplifying the future State Pension. These proposals, if approved by Parliament, will not affect anyone reaching State Pension age before the reforms are introduced in April 2016.
If you reach State Pension age after 6 April 2016 and so are affected by the proposed changes to simplify future State Pension, the time limits for paying voluntary contributions have been extended.
Provided the earlier conditions are met you can pay voluntary Class 2 National Insurance contributions if you are employed or self-employed abroad (but not if you are employed and already paying Class 1 contributions).
In order to pay voluntary Class 2 contributions you must either have been:
Class 2 contributions have the following benefits:
If you want to check whether you satisfy the conditions for paying voluntary Class 2 National Insurance contributions, contact National Insurance Contributions & Employer Office - International Caseworker.
Provided the earlier conditions are met you can pay voluntary Class 3 National Insurance contributions when abroad if you are not employed or not entitled to make Class 2 payments. You may also be able to pay voluntary Class 3 contributions if you have not paid enough Class 1 or Class 2 contributions in the tax year to make it count towards your State Pension or other state benefits.
Class 3 National Insurance contributions have fewer benefits than Class 2 contributions. For example, they protect your spouse's right to bereavement benefits, but they don't entitle you to the Employment and Support Allowance when you return to the UK.
You can find out how to apply for and pay your National Insurance contributions in the following sections.
You can apply using form CF83 'Application to make National Insurance Contributions abroad'. You can find this form and accompanying guidance notes on the back of leaflet NI38. Fill it in and return it to National Insurance Contributions & Employer Office - International Caseworker.
There are two ways you can pay voluntary National Insurance contributions:
If you want to nominate an agent to make your payments for you, you'll need to provide their details when completing form CF83. You should also complete a form 64-8, if the agent needs to discuss your account with HMRC.