Wednesday, 2 September 2009

Obtaining a National Insurance Number

Everyone who works in the UK, regardless of nationality, must have a National Insurance Number. Most Britons obtain one when they begin work, or around age 16. However, chances are if you're reading this, you haven't yet obtained one and need to know how. Here's a little background first.

A National Insurance Number is different from a National Health Service (NHS) Number. If you're looking for information on getting a NHS number, click here. The NHS number will give you access to free National Health care during your stay in the UK. A National Insurance Number, which is our subject here, is the equivalent of the American Social Security Number. This number is important mostly for tax purposes, though there are special benefits for UK nationals.

In order to apply, here's what you need to do:

1. Contact Jobcentre Plus at 0845 600 0643 (8.00 am to 6.00 pm Monday to Friday) to have your situation reviewed. If they determine that you need a NI Number, they will either set up an interview for you at your local Jobcentre Plus office or mail you an application. (In some cases, you cannot apply for a NI number without a firm job offer.)

2. EITHER Attend your interview on the appropriate day. This shouldn't take more than 30 minutes. They will ask you questions to determine your eligibility to work in the UK, etc. Nothing scary. OR If they don't require you to attend an interview, complete the application and mail back along with copies of your passport and visa.

3. If my experience is normative, they will send you a letter within a week or two containing your new NI number. In about 4-8 weeks, you will get an official NI card for your wallet.

Also note, in my experience, employers are not strict about you having a NI number in order to secure a job, as long as you tell them that you're in the application process, or about to apply. You should be able to give them your NI number as soon as you obtain it.

For more information on applying for a NI number, click here.

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  1. Are you working? Did you find it difficult to find a job once you moved over there? My husband and and I are getting ready to move to Edinburgh and one of my hesitations is finding work once we move. Thanks! Your site has been very helpful to us as we try to make plans.

  2. Hi, Jill. Yes, I am working, but most of my current work is self-employment doing freelance writing and editing. However, when we first moved here I had no difficulty getting work immediately with a temp agency in Edinburgh. Not ideal, but it was really helpful to be earning in pounds right off the bat. I would definitely recommend starting off with something like that, while you look for a more permanent opportunity because based on what most of my friends have experienced, it can take around 3-6 months to find a good job, especially as a foreigner. That may not be terribly encouraging, but I hope it's helpful! And, who knows, you might just find something right away. Try looking at for possible opportunities before you even get here.

  3. That is great! Thank you for the information. I will check out that website to see what is out there. I had heard about the possibility of a temp agency and will check that out when we come over. Right now the plan is for my husband to move in August and me to follow in September. There is so much to think about but we are excited for the adventure. Thanks again for helping!

  4. Jackie - Do you have a sense of the attire for people working in offices? I am trying to pack my winter clothes (as we change seasons) but I am not sure what I need to bring. I want to look appropriate if I were to get a job in an office but not out of place. Can you tell if women wear skirts, dresses, heels, etc? I know you work at home - but hoping you can give some advice in this area! Thanks so much.

  5. Hi, again, Jill. Sorry for the delay. I was consulting with a friend here who has worked in an office environment. In her experience, besides our own general observations of people on the street, it seems that office attire around here is definitely at the formal end of the spectrum. We see lots of skirts, slacks, heels, jackets, fitted dresses, etc. I hope that helps!

  6. That helps for sure! Thanks for checking into it for me! I have heard conflicting things about what people wear and I need to bring the right stuff if I hope to get an office job. Again, thanks for taking the time!

  7. Jill, here is a bit more information from my friend Julie:

    "I would say that generally, the mainstream corporate offices are rather formal with most females in what I would call a pants suit back home, but who knows what it would be called here...trouser suit?!...or knee length skirts with collared shirts. I would describe general office attire as a step up in formality from business casual, which I would consider the norm in the US. In the charity sector things are by and large pretty casual, but if she doesn't know for sure what type of work she's looking for it would probably be best to plan on a bit more formal. That being said, I also find that people here have much less variety in clothing and most people I work with tend to wear the same 3 - 4 outfits for work. So there's no need to invest in an extensive work wardrobe - repeating outfits is very common (even back to back). I read that somewhere before we came but didn't really believe it, but it's definitely true. : )"

  8. Jackie:

    Thank you for the extra information. I had actually heard that folks there tend to wear a kind of "uniform" to work and just repeat it regularly. I will need to do a little shopping before coming based on this news, but not quite as much as I thought. I appreciate the information and it helps tremendously. We are only about 3 months out from our move and things are speeding along.

    Thanks again!


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