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National Insurance – UK regulations for non-UK citizens

National Insurance – Your questions answered

What is National Insurance?

National Insurance (NI) is a tax that must be paid by anyone who works in the UK, earning over £184 per week. National Insurance was originally introduced as an ‘insurance scheme’ to provide benefits for those who can’t support themselves. However, it’s now viewed as just another taxation vehicle.

Who needs to sign up for National Insurance?

Anyone who works in the UK needs to enrol for National Insurance and get an NI number. This number, unique to you, will be used to keep track of your UK earnings and how much tax you’ve paid. Remember – because you pay National Insurance, most access to UK health services are covered, provided that

  • you have a British passport or a visa that allows you to work; or
  • you’re studying here for a period of more than six months.

Do I need to pay private health insurance?

Not for most medical conditions that arise while you’re in the UK, but it’s worth carrying out your own research to be sure. Learn more about UK Healthcare for Europeans visiting the UK here.

Can I start work in the UK if I don’t yet have my NI number?

Yes – you can start work before applying for your NI number and while waiting for your application to be processed.

How much National Insurance must I pay?

The National Insurance rules are quite complicated and depend on your position. However, as a general rule, if you earn more than £184 a week or £797 a month (this is for the tax year April 6th 2021 – April 5th 2022), then you will have to pay National Insurance Contributions (NICs). How much you pay depends on how much you earn.

  • 12% of your weekly earnings between £184 to £967 per week
  • 2% of any weekly earnings above £967 a week

In addition, your employer needs to pay National Insurance at the rate of 13.8% on salaries of over £170 a week or £737 a month.

Full details of NI rates are here.

How to calculate national insurance

How do I pay National Insurance?

Your employer will deduct National Insurance contributions automatically from your gross salary and pay the contributions directly to HMRC. If you’re self-employed, you’ll need to set up a regular payment to HMRC.

I have paid an Immigration Health Surcharge (IHS) fee – do I still have to pay National Insurance?

Yes. The National Insurance deduction, whilst in part contributing to the NHS, doesn’t only fund the NHS. You therefore must pay.

When can I apply for my National Insurance number?

Generally speaking, you can only apply for your National Insurance number after you’ve arrived in the UK.

How do I apply for a NI number?

You used to have to go for an interview to apply for an NI number. Now the application is on-line. See here – but for support, contact us. We’ll be pleased to help.

What information do I need when I apply?

You’ll need your passport (or ID card and Business Residents Permit if you entered the UK on a visa). If you’re European and have pre-settled status, then you’ll need to generate a share code. A share code is a code that is available that proves a persons right to work in the UK. It can be applied on line here.

needs to apply for National Insurance

How long does it take to get a National Insurance number?

Once you’ve applied, it usually takes around 8-16 weeks to get an NI number.

Is there a ‘fast-track’ service?

No.beware of companies that tell you they can fast-track your NI number application.

If I leave the UK and return later, do I need to apply again?

No. Once you have a National Insurance number, you have it for life.

I’ve lost my NI number. How can I find out what my NI number is?

Notify HMRC. You can complete the online form on the HRMC website or call the National Insurance enquiries helpline on 0300 200 3500 (lines are open 8 am to 5 pm, Monday to Friday).

Is it illegal to work without an NI number?

No – but it is illegal to avoid paying National Insurance Contributions. So, having a NI number is essential.

Essential advice on UK National Insurance regulations

If you’re a non-UK citizen working in the UK, then you will almost certainly have to pay National Insurance contributions. AccountsCo will give you all the guidance and support you need for personal tax.


To find out more, please get in touch.

National Insurance – Your questions answered What is National Insurance? National Insurance (NI) is a tax that must be paid by anyone who works in the UK, earning over £184 per week. National Insurance was originally introduced as an ‘insurance scheme’ to provide benefits for those who can’t support themselves. However, it’s now viewed as […]

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