Eligible individuals in the UK are issued a National Insurance number once they reach a certain age. This number is used by the government to help keep a record of your tax and benefits entitlement.
National Insurance numbers are used by a number of different organisations. It is helpful to know your number so that you can use it when contacting HMRC about your tax record and other government departments.
Although most people will be sent their NI number once they come of age, this isn't the case for everyone. You might need to apply for one or require help to find your number again if you forget it.
Your National Insurance is very important, so we've made a guide to help you find it if you can't remember what it is or need to apply for one.
HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) issue National Insurance numbers because it helps them to monitor your National Insurance contributions and make sure that your taxes are correctly recorded against your name.
Each National Insurance number is unique and doesn't change, even if you marry, move abroad or change your name. Your National Insurance number will be nine digits long and consist of six numbers and two letters. You will be able to find your national insurance number on your payslips, P60 and on letters from HMRC about your tax, pension or benefits.
You must have a National Insurance number if you plan to work in the UK. However, you don't need one if you are applying for benefits or a student loan. You will be sent a National Insurance number if your application for either is successful.
HMRC stopped issuing National Insurance cards in 2011. However, you can view your NI number online. If you have a personal tax account, you can sign into it to find your National Insurance number. You can also find a copy of letters that HMRC have previously sent to you and print one off as they will feature your National Insurance number.
Your online account can be accessed by logging in through the Government Gateway. It's possible to register for Government Gateway if you haven't used it before. GOV.UK Verify can no longer be used to sign in to your personal tax account.
In the instance that these options do not work, you can complete a CA5403 form online and post it to HMRC. You must fully complete the form online before you can print and post it. The form cannot be partially completed, so you need to allow yourself enough time and all the relevant information to complete it in one sitting. The address you need to send it to is:
National Insurance contributions and Employers Office
HM Revenue and Customs
You may be asked to submit additional documents, depending on the answers that you provide in the form. After you have provided the necessary responses to the questions, the webpage may ask that you send in certain documents to further confirm your identity.
You will need to send two of the following documents as evidence if requested:
- birth certificate
- full or provisional driving licence
- adoption certificate
- home office or travel document
- work permit
- certificate of naturalisation
- marriage or civil partnership
- certificate of service in Her Majesty’s Forces or merchant navy
- identity or medical card
Your National Insurance number should be sent to you via post within 15 days of HMRC receiving your application.
You will usually get your National Insurance number three months before you turn 16. This applies to everyone who lives in the UK who has a parent or guardian that has completed a Child Benefit application for you.
If you're aged between 16 and 19 years old and haven't been sent a National Insurance number, you can do one of the following:
- contact HMRC if your parent or guardian completed a Child Benefit claim form for you
- apply for a National Insurance number online if your parent or guardian didn't complete a Child Benefit claim form for you
It's a good idea to contact HMRC if you are unsure, as you may already have a National Insurance number assigned. You might also have a National Insurance number if you have a biometric residence permit (BRP). The number should be printed on the back of your BRP if you do.
It can take up to eight weeks to get a National Insurance number after you have applied for one. You can contact the application helpline if your National Insurance number hasn't arrived after eight weeks. You might also need to contact the National Insurance numbers helpline if you've moved residency since your application or if your personal details have changed since you submitted your application.
Apply for a National Insurance number on behalf of a child in care
A child won't automatically get a National Insurance number if they are in the care of a local authority. Social workers are able to contact HMRC and apply for a National Insurance number on the child's behalf.
If you are a social worker, you can submit an application for a child you work with when they are 15 years and nine months old. You will need to write to HMRC using paper that is headed with your local authority's official letterhead. The letter must explain that you are applying for a National Insurance number on behalf of a looked-after child. You will also need to supply your contact details.
You must include the following information in your application:
- the child’s full name
- previous names the child has used (if applicable)
- the child’s date of birth
- the date the child was placed into care
- the child’s current residential address
It's also helpful to send a photocopy of the child's birth certificate, Care Order and the ID page of the child's passport if you have the documents available. You could also submit any old addresses that are associated with the child, such as their parents' previous residential address or the child's last address before they were taken into care.
If the child is an unaccompanied minor who is supported by the Home Office, you will need to submit the following as part of the application:
- photocopy of the child's Home Office documents
- photocopy of the child's residence permit (both sides)
These documents should be posted or faxed to the following address:
PT Operations North East England
HM Revenue and Customs
Fax: 0191 213 1262
It's important only to send photocopies of the documents as they cannot be returned. You must also send a separate application for each child you are submitting an application for. HMRC will not accept applications that have been emailed.
After HMRC has received your application, you will be sent written confirmation of the child's National Insurance number. If HMRC needs more details, they will contact you via the details that you supplied with your initial application. You can request an update on the status of the application by contacting the Juvenile team on 03000 555 716.
What is my National Insurance number used for?
There are a number of official organisations that will use your National Insurance number, including the following:
- HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC)
- your employer
- the Department for Work and Pensions (which includes Jobcentre Plus and the Pension, Disability and Carers Service)
- Department for Social Development (if you are based in Northern Ireland)
- your local council (if you claim Housing Benefit),
- Housing Executive (if you are based in Northern Ireland)
- Electoral Registration Officers (to check your identity when you register to vote)
- the Student Loan Company (if you apply for a student loan)
- your pension provider (if you have a personal or stakeholder pension)
- your Individual Savings Account (ISA) provider
- authorised financial service providers
These organisations need your NI number to confirm your identity and make sure that the correct information is attached to your record.
Your National Insurance number also determines which day you receive your State Pension (once you are eligible). The table below is a breakdown of when you will be paid:
|Last 2 digits of your National Insurance number||Payment day of the week|
|00 to 19||Monday|
|20 to 39||Tuesday|
|40 to 59||Wednesday|
|60 to 79||Thursday|
|80 to 99||Friday|
As with your bank account and credit card details, you should not share your National Insurance number with anyone who does not need it. Sharing your personal or financial information can lead to identity fraud, so it's essential that you only give your details to official organisations like the ones mentioned above.
How can I apply for a National Insurance number?
To apply for a National Insurance number, you must meet all of the following criteria:
- live in the UK
- have the right to work in the UK
- work, be looking for work, or have an offer to start work
You need to apply for a National Insurance number online. Before you begin your application, you will need the following documents if you have them:
- a passport from any country
- a biometric residence permit (BRP)
- a national identity card from an EU country or from Norway, Liechtenstein or Switzerland
In some cases, you may need to provide details from more than one of these documents. It's possible to apply for a National Insurance number even if you don't have any of these documents. However, you may be asked to attend an appointment in person to prove your identity.
To prove your identity, you will need to upload one of the following:
- a photo of yourself holding your passport
- photos of your other identifying documents
These images can be taken on a number of devices, including your smartphone, tablet or digital camera. It may be a good idea to ask someone to take these photos for you.
It is possible to apply online, even if you don't have these photos available, although the process will take longer. You may be asked to attend an in-person appointment or post photocopies of the required documents. An email will be sent to you that will explain what you need to do after submitting your application.
After your application has been processed, you will be sent an email with a reference number for your application. The email may ask that you provide further information to confirm your identity. You should receive your National Insurance number within eight weeks after you provide evidence of your identity.
You are able to start working before you receive a National Insurance number, as long as you have the right to work in the UK. You can also apply for a student loan or for benefits without a National Insurance number. If you need a NI number to get paid your benefits, or student loan, you will be contacted and told to apply for one. You won't need a National Insurance number if you want to apply to the EU Settlement Scheme.
There are a number of ways that you can find a lost National Insurance number or apply for one if you haven't already been issued one. You have to live and have the right to work in the UK to be given a NI number. However, you can start working before you receive a National Insurance number.
You can log in to your personal tax account to find your National Insurance number. Your account will also feature previous letters that HMRC has sent you, which will contain your NI number. You can print these letters off for your own records. Alternatively, you can complete a CA5403 form online, print it off and post it to HMRC to be sent your NI number by post.
National Insurance numbers are used by various organisations such as your employer, HMRC and your pension provider. You don't need a National Insurance number to apply for benefits or a student loan. Instead, you will be sent one if your application for either is successful.