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 Northern Ireland Social Security Agency and HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC).
Receiving a National Insurance number automatically
You'll be sent a National Insurance number automatically just before your 16th birthday if both of the following apply:
- you live in the UK
- your parents or guardians are getting Child Benefit for you
If you're between 16 and 20 years old and haven't received a National Insurance number, contact the National Insurance registration helpline for advice:
When and how to apply for a National Insurance number
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
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.
When starting work or setting up as self-employed
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 your nearest National Insurance Number Processing Centre to make an appointment. There are three local processing centres:
- Shaftesbury Square
- National Insurance registration helpline and local processing centres
You will need to go to an 'Evidence of identity' interview - see the section 'What happens when you apply for a National Insurance number'.
Find out more information about your right to work in the UK.
If you have applied for a student loan
If you applied for and have been awarded a student loan and you don't have a National Insurance number, the Student Loans Company will make sure that one of the Processing Centres arrange for you to get one. They may need you to go to an 'Evidence of identity' interview - see the later section 'What happens when you apply for a National Insurance number'.
What happens when you apply for a National Insurance number
The Processing Centre will arrange an 'Evidence of identity' interview for you they will confirm the date, time and location of your interview and what information/documents you need to support your application.
What to expect at the 'Evidence of identity' interview
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:
- valid passport (UK or foreign)
- national identity card (UK or foreign)
- residence permit or residence card including biometric immigration residency documents
- full birth or adoption certificate
- full marriage or civil partnership certificate
- driving licence (UK or foreign)
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.
What happens next?
If you were asked to provide additional information you will need to do this by the agreed date. The Processing Centre 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.
You've lost your National Insurance card or forgotten your number
You don't need to have a card - it's the number that's important. If you’ve lost or can't remember your number, you might be able to find it on official paperwork like:
- your P60 (end of year tax statement, given to you by your employer)
- a payslip
- a copy of your annual Self Assessment tax return
- other official correspondence
If you still can't find your number, you can ask HMRC to confirm it by completing and returning CA5403 - Your National Insurance number - GOV.UK or by calling the National Insurance Registrations Helpline on:
HMRC cannot confirm your National Insurance number by telephone. They will write to you instead.