What is National Insurance?
National Insurance (NI) is a compulsory 12% tax on your weekly earnings between £166 and £962. You pay NI for each week that you earn over £166. It is taken from your wages automatically.
If you have more than one employer, they will all apply the allowance. So, for example, if you have more than one employer, but earn less than £166 per week from each one, you will not pay NI contributions even if your total pay is more than £166.
Some of your NI contributions help pay for essential public services, and some are paid into the UK’s state pension fund. You cannot get a refund of these contributions.
How do I apply for a NI number
UK nationals normally receive their NI number at the age of 16.
Non-UK nationals who want to work must apply for an NI number. You can do this when you start looking for work, or when someone offers you a job, or when you start work for the first time.
The whole process of applying for an NI number is explained online.
To apply for an NI number, contact the National Insurance application line 0800 141 2075. Lines are open Monday to Friday 8am to 6pm. You must know your home postcode when you ring.
When you ring, you will either be asked to attend an ‘evidence of identity’ interview at your local Job Centre Plus, or you will be sent a postal application. If you are asked to attend an interview, check exactly what documents you will need to take with you: this is usually a range of original documents such as your passport, national identity card, birth certificate or driving licence. International students may need evidence that they are enrolled at QMUL. If you need evidence of enrolment:
- If you are on an undergraduate or a taught postgraduate course, you can request a letter online.
- If you are a postgraduate research student, email firstname.lastname@example.org to request a letter, and then go in person to collect the original. Alternatively you can request the letter in person by going to the Research Degrees Office, room 2.13, Second Floor, Graduate Centre, Mile End campus.
If you are looking for work or already working you may also need to provide evidence of this such as job applications or a letter from your employer. It might take up to 12 weeks before you receive your NI number through the post, but you can work, and be paid, while you are waiting.
Do I need a NI number before I start work?
Some employers wrongly think that a National Insurance number is proof of your right to work in the UK and that they need to see that you have one before you can start work. This is incorrect. As proof that you can work in the UK, an employer only needs to see (and make a copy of) your immigration permission, or evidence of your status that allows you to work, either in your current passport or on your Biometric Residence Permit. There is information online for employers about how to check if someone can work in the UK.
However, a few employers choose to only offer jobs to people who already have an NI number. This can be the case with some recruitment agencies, including QTemps, run by the QMUL Careers and Enterprise Centre.
Please note that if you would like to work or you are currently working in the UK, you will be subject to employer checks (your employer checking that you have the right to work in the UK). There is information on employer checks in the section of this guide 'International students: the rules about working'.
Law, regulations and policies can change quickly. The information on our website is given in good faith and has been carefully checked but QMUL cannot accept responsibility for any errors or omissions. QMUL is not responsible for the content or reliability of the linked websites which are provided for further information.