Known as the national insurance (NI) number in the U.K., those seeking to contribute to or claim social security benefits understand that ownership of such a number is crucial. Unlike in the U.S., where Social Security cards are issued at birth, in the U.K. national insurance cards are not issued until the individual is at least 15 years and 9 months of age. Much like applications for any government benefits and official paperwork, there is a bit of red tape. To avoid getting the runaround, it is a good idea to know ahead of time what to expect during the application process.
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Assess if you have a need for a national insurance (NI) number because you are thinking of filing a claim against the social security office. If you foresee claiming national insurance benefits for yourself or your marriage/cohabiter, it is important to get the process started early. You must contact the general Department for Work and Pensions (DWP), Job Centre to proceed.
Call the Job Centre claim benefit hotline at 0800-055-6688 from within the U.K. between the hours of 8am and 6pm., Monday through Friday. While in the past applicants were allowed to visit their local Job Centre for the application process, at this time the national insurance number application is rolled into the benefit claim process for adults who have not previously applied for--or received--a number.
Consider other reasons why you may need to apply for an NI card. If you are going to begin working or have already done so, if you are self-employed, if you are over the age of 20 or if you simply would like to contribute to the national insurance program, you will need to contact the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) Basic National Insurance Application Department by dialling 0845-600-0643 within the U.K. If you are between the ages of 16 and 20 and have not received a national insurance number, you may call the National Insurance Registrations Helpline at 0845-915-7006. Agents will take your call between 8am and 5pm., Monday through Friday.
Discuss the specific application process you need to undergo with the agent on the telephone. After taking down your information, the agent will perform a systemwide search to make sure that you have not previously been issued a card and that you are truly in need of one. Once it is ascertained that you have never received a national insurance number in the U.K. before and that you have indeed a need-based reason for requesting one, you are required to come into your local Job Centre for a personal interview. This request is sent to you in writing and will specify the location, date and time when you are to report there.
Bring proof of identity, proof of employment eligibility and any other documents that are requested in the letter you received. Since the agency conducting the interview will not accept photocopies, you must bring originals of everything. Usually you need your passport, driving license, birth certificate, certificate of marriage or civil partnership, national identity card, work permit and payslips.
Return to your home after the interview and wait for the DWP representative to contact you in writing. If your application is approved, you are issued a national insurance number, which is contained in the letter. The actual card is sent to you later on. If your application is denied, the letter will state the reasons for the denial of your application.
Tips and warnings
- You are not entitled to receive a national insurance number without application unless you were the recipient of child benefits prior to age 16.
- Remember to keep in touch with the DWP office and report changes of address and marital status so your national insurance file can be updated.
- If you are working and have not yet received your NI number, make sure to let your employer know!
- At this time you cannot apply via the Internet for the number and--although time consuming--using the telephone is the only way to go.
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- The FAQ portion of the Job Centre Plus website offers a lot of phone numbers for those with a lost, missing, or forgotten national insurance number.
- Learn which documents are appropriate for proving your identity with the local Job Centre office by visiting another section of the Job Centre Plus website.
- Get a copy of a marriage, domestic partnership, birth or death certificate at the General Register Office.
- Become acquainted with the national insurance procedures at the Department for Work and Pensions.
- Locate the Job Centre office nearest you.