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Applying For A National Insurance Number To Work in Northern Ireland

Receiving a National Insurance Card is something of a 'rite of passage' for British nationals at the age of 15. Most teenagers will likely not understand that the innocuous blue and red card represents the start of a lifetime of work and contributing towards their state pension.

If you were not born in the UK, but you plan to work in England, Wales, Scotland, or Northern Ireland, you will need to register for a National Insurance number before you can work. In this article, we will explain who needs to apply for a National Insurance number, and the process of applying if you are living in Northern Ireland.

What Is A National Insurance Number?

A National Insurance number is a unique reference which ensures that all National Insurance contributions and tax you pay (whether through work or benefits) are recorded against your pension and tax records. By paying national insurance (which is mandatory), you will then be contributing to and be eligible for benefits (e.g. if unemployed or sick) and a UK State Pension. National Insurance is paid by employees over 16 years who earn over £183 per week. It is also paid by self-employed individuals, earning a profit of £6,475 each year.

The National Insurance system has different types of 'classes' of payment:

  • Class 1 – for employees earning more than £183 a week and under State Pension age - automatically deducted by your employer
  • Class 1A or 1B - Employers pay these directly on their employee's expenses or benefits
  • Class 2 - Self-employed people earning more than £6,475 a year. If you're earning less than this, you can choose to pay voluntary contributions to fill or avoid gaps in your National Insurance record
  • Class 3 - Voluntary contributions - you can pay them to fill or avoid gaps in your National Insurance record
  • Class 4 - Self-employed people earning profits of £9,501 or more a year

For employed individuals, National Insurance contributions are typically deducted from their wages and paid by the employer. The employer also pays a secondary contribution.

How Can I Apply For A National Insurance Number For Northern Ireland?

If you are planning to work in any part of the UK, including Northern Ireland, you will need to apply for a National Insurance card before you can work.

You should be aware that as at the time of writing this article, the UK government website states, "You can currently only apply for a National Insurance number in England, Scotland and Wales if you have entered the UK on a visa. You cannot apply for a National Insurance number in Northern Ireland. This is because of coronavirus (COVID-19)".

There is every chance that, depending on when you plan to apply for a National Insurance number, the application service will have resumed in Northern Ireland. Despite this restriction, if you have proof that you are eligible to work in Northern Ireland, then you will be able to start work without a National Insurance number.

Normally, to apply for a National Insurance number, you would need to contact one of the dedicated National Insurance processing centres in Northern Ireland to register your details. The contact details for the processing centres are as follows:

Lines are open from 9.00 am to 4.00 pm Monday to Friday

  • Belfast's area: 028 9013 8286 or 028 9013 8287
  • Northern area: 028 7185 5407 or 028 7185 5406
  • Southern area: 028 9013 8279 or 028 9013 8284

Once you have registered with your local National Insurance processing centre in Northern Ireland, you will be asked to attend an 'evidence of identity' interview. They will explain the date, time and location of your appointment, and the documents you should bring with you.

Unless you require an interpreter, you will typically only be interviewed by one person who will check your identity and then ask a series of questions regarding your reasons for applying for a National Insurance number, your background, and your circumstances. To prove your identity, it is recommended that you bring as many of the following documents as possible with you to your appointment:

  • passport (UK or foreign)
  • current identity card issued by an EEA or EU member state, or Gibraltar
  • residence permit or residence card, including biometric immigration residency documents
  • full birth or adoption certificate
  • full marriage or civil partnership certificate

Once your identity has been confirmed, the case officer will complete the application for a National Insurance number based on the information you provide. You will then be asked to sign the form before it is submitted. In some situations, if the case officer needs more information, you may be asked to provide additional documents by a set date to support your application.

Once your application has been reviewed and considered by the processing centre, they will write to you to advise the outcome of your application, and if successful, they will provide your National Insurance number. Once you have your number, you should provide this to your employer, as this will then ensure that any contributions you make will be correctly recorded against your national insurance and tax records. It is also recommended that you keep your National Insurance card safe as you will need to provide the number in the future, including when you contact HMRC regarding your tax, the Department for Social Development if you need to claim benefits, or your local council if claiming housing benefit.

Wrapping Up

Applying for a National Insurance number in Northern Ireland is a straightforward process, and as long as the processing centre case officer believes that your reasons are genuine, you should have no problems securing one. As a worker who is contributing to National Insurance, you will be helping to secure your future and that of your family in the UK.

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