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National Insurance number: What int’l students in the UK should know

National Insurance Number
You’ll need a National Insurance number if you’re planning on working in the UK. Source: Isabel Infantes/AFP

Are you planning on studying in the UK? The region is home to some of the world’s top universities, attractive post-study work options and tourist attractions, making it a highly attractive study destination for many. While doing your research on the UK, you might have come across the term “National Insurance number”, but haven’t thought about what it was or why it mattered. 

Here’s a breakdown of what you should know:

What is a National Insurance number?

If you’re a non-UK resident planning on working in the UK, you’ll need to apply for a National Insurance number (also known as an NI number) used to keep track of your tax and National Insurance contribution.

Gov.uk notes that you can start work without a National Insurance number if you can prove you have the right to work in the UK.

“You do not need a National Insurance number to apply to the EU Settlement Scheme,” its website notes. 

National Insurance number

International students in the UK who are above the age of 16 may work up to 20 hours a week during the term. Source: Tolga Akmen/AFP

Who pays National Insurance?

Gov.uk notes that individuals pay mandatory National Insurance if they’re 16 or over and are either:

  • An employee earning above £190 a week
  • Self-employed and making a profit of £6,725 or more a year
  • You may be able to pay voluntary contributions to avoid gaps in your NI contributions

“You need a National Insurance number before you can start paying National Insurance contributions,” it said.

How can I get one?

You’ll need to apply online and prove your identity.

How much does it cost?

You don’t have to pay for this number unless you seek the help of an agency.

Can I start work in the UK without a National Insurance number?

You can start work without one if you can prove you have the right to work in the UK, notes the government. 

Who can apply?

You can apply for a National Insurance number if you live and have the right to work in the UK.

You must also be looking for work or have an offer to start work in the UK. If you have already started working you can still apply.

It doesn’t cost students a dime to apply for an NI number. Source: Daniel Leal Olivas/AFP

Other things to know about working in the UK

International students in the UK who are above the age of 16 may work up to 20 hours a week during the term. You are allowed to work longer hours during vacation.

The government notes that students cannot work in certain jobs, for example as a professional sportsperson or sports coach or be self-employed, on a UK Student visa.