Voluntary National Insurance contributions if you live abroad

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.

On this page:

Who can pay voluntary National Insurance contributions while abroad?

If you want to pay voluntary National Insurance contributions while abroad, either of the following conditions must apply:

  • you must have lived in the UK for a continuous three-year period at any time before making your payments
  • before you went abroad, you paid National Insurance contributions for three years or more

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.

Top

Benefits of paying UK National Insurance while abroad

If you move abroad, continuing to pay UK National Insurance contributions may help keep your entitlement to:

  • certain state benefits in the European Economic Area (EEA) and some reciprocal agreement countries - find out which countries apply by following the first link below
  • certain state benefits and allowances when you return to the UK
  • a basic State Pension

You can find out which UK state benefits depend on National Insurance contributions by following the second link below.

Look up EEA countries and countries who have reciprocal agreements with the UK - on the Department for Work and Pensions website (Opens new window)

National Insurance and state benefits

Healthcare when you are abroad

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.

RDR1 - Residence, domicile and the remittance basis

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.

Go to leaflet NI38

Top

Topping up your National Insurance contributions

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.

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.

Find out more about Proposals to change State Pensions (Opens new window)

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.

Find out more about the extended time limits

Top

What class of contribution to pay

Voluntary Class 2: employed or self-employed abroad

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:

  • 'ordinarily' employed or self-employed immediately before you went abroad
  • 'ordinarily' employed or self-employed but became unemployed immediately before you went abroad to work ('unemployed' means registered as unemployed with the Department for Work and Pensions and looking for work)

Class 2 contributions have the following benefits:

  • they count towards your State Pension when you retire
  • they entitle you to the Employment and Support Allowance (previously known as Incapacity Benefit) and bereavement benefits when you return to the UK

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.

Contact National Insurance Contributions & Employer Office - International Caseworker

More about Class 2 National Insurance contributions

Class 3: unemployed abroad, not entitled to pay Class 2, or if you have gaps in your contributions for the tax year

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.

More about Class 3 National Insurance contributions

You can find out how to apply for and pay your National Insurance contributions in the following sections.

Top

How to apply to make voluntary contributions if you live abroad

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.

Go to NI38

Contact National Insurance Contributions & Employer Office - International Caseworker

Top

How to pay voluntary contributions if you live abroad

There are two ways you can pay voluntary National Insurance contributions:

  • via Direct Debit every 4 or 5 weeks
  • with an annual payment

How to pay self-employed class 2 National Insurance

How to pay voluntary class 3 National Insurance

Nominating an agent to pay for you

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.

Find out more about completing form 64-8

Top

More useful links

National Insurance - the basics

Guidance for social security abroad - on the Department for Work and Pensions website (Opens new window)

RDR1 - Residence, domicile and the remittance basis

Top