national insurance: british social security

National Insurance (NI) was something I didn’t know about until a couple of weeks ago. National Insurance is not to be confused with the National Health Service (NHS), NI is basically a social security tax. In order to work, you must have NI. International students have to apply for National Insurance.

According to the Career Services at the University of Edinburgh:

“You can apply for a National Insurance number if you have the right to work in the UK. Contact the National Insurance Number Allocation Service by telephone to apply for a number.¬†Please note, this is a very busy number, so you may need to persevere to get through.

National Insurance Number Allocation Service: 0845 6000 643

When you call, state you are an international student needing a NI number for work purposes. You should have your postcode and passport with you when telephoning, as well as the contact details of your employer if you already have a job offer.

In addition to a brief telephone interview you may be required to attend a further interview in person at a local Job Centre Plus office. The face-to-face interview will last a maximum of 30 minutes. It is important to arrive 10 minutes in advance – late arrivals will lose their appointment.

You will need to take recommend documents with you to confirm your identity. Recommended documents to take (if you have them) include:

  • passport
  • ID card
  • driving licence
  • police registration document
  • student card
  • proof of offer of work
  • confirmation of your address (eg lease or utilities bill)

Within 2-3 weeks of your appointment you will receive a letter containing your NI number. After another 6-8 weks you receive your NI card.”


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