How to apply for your National Insurance number

You need a National Insurance number if you’re working or about to start work in the UK. Here’s how you can apply for one.

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Getting a job in the UK requires you to have a National Insurance number. If you don’t have one or you’re not sure how to get one, here is a useful guide on how to apply for your National Insurance number.

What is a National Insurance number?

Your National Insurance number is a unique personal number, consisting of two letters, six digits and a final letter, that is used to ensure that your NI contributions and tax payments are correctly recorded against your name.

It is also used as a reference number throughout the social security system, including on correspondence with HMRC and the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP).

How do you apply for a National Insurance number?

If you live in the UK and were included in a child benefit claim, then you should have been issued with a National Insurance number automatically before your 16th birthday.

Otherwise, you’ll need to apply for one once you start working or if you plan to pay Class 3 voluntary National Insurance contributions. Such contributions are paid by people who want to avoid gaps in their National Insurance record.

You can apply on the website. You will need to prove your identity as part of your application, and you can do so using one of these documents:

  • A passport from any country
  • A biometric residence permit (BRP)
  • A National Identity card from a country in the EU, Norway, Liechtenstein or Switzerland.

You can still apply if you do not have any of these documents, but you might need to attend an interview to prove your identity.

According to HMRC, once your identity has been confirmed, it can take up to 16 weeks for you to get your National Insurance number.

Can you start work without a National Insurance number?

You can start work without a National Insurance number if you can prove you have the right to work in the UK. But you must then apply for one immediately.

However, you do not need a National Insurance number to apply for the EU Settlement Scheme.

Do you need to apply for a new number if you’ve lost or forgotten it?

If you have lost or forgotten your National Insurance number, you do not need to apply for a new one. You only get issued with one number throughout your lifetime which cannot be changed.

You might be able to find your lost or forgotten number on official paperwork, such as:

  • A P60
  • A copy of your self-assessment tax return
  • Other forms and letters from HMRC or the DWP

You can also find the number in the ‘National Insurance’ section of your personal tax account. And if you still can’t find your number, you can:

  • Opt to complete and return a CA5403 form to the address on the form
  • Contact the National Insurance helpline on 0845 915 7006 and answer some questions.

Keep in mind that HMRC will not tell you your National Insurance number over the phone, but will instead post it to you.

A word of caution

Beware of National Insurance number scams involving phone calls or texts telling you that your number will be cancelled due to ‘unethical or fraudulent activities’, or that it has been compromised and you need to get a new one.

This is a phishing attempt that could lead to identity theft and possible financial fraud. Remember that your National Insurance number is only issued once. It does not expire and cannot be cancelled.