If you live in the UK you’ll normally receive a National Insurance number automatically at age 16. You’ll need it in certain circumstances such as claiming state benefits, applying for a student loan or when working. You can start work without one but you'll need to apply for one straightaway.
What is a National Insurance number?
Your National Insurance number is your own personal account number. It is unique to you and you keep the same one all your life. It makes sure that the National Insurance contributions and tax you pay are properly recorded against your name. It also acts as a reference number when communicating with the Northern Ireland Social Security Agency and HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC).
Receiving a National Insurance number automatically
You'll be sent a National Insurance number automatically just before your 16th birthday if both of the following apply:
- you live in the UK
- your parents or guardians are getting Child Benefit for you
If you're between 16 and 20 years old and haven't received a National Insurance number contact the National Insurance Registrations Helpline on 0845 3000 168 for advice. Lines are open from 8.30 am to 5.00 pm Monday to Friday.
When and how to apply for a National Insurance number
If you don't already have a National Insurance number you must apply for one in the following circumstances. How you apply varies, as explained below.
If you need to claim benefits and/or tax credits
If you need to claim benefits and/or tax credits (or if your partner needs to claim benefits and/or tax credits for you) you will need a National Insurance number. Your application will be made as part of the benefit claim process.
When starting work or setting up as self-employed
If you start work or set up as self-employed you must apply for a National Insurance number if you do not have one. You do not need to have a plastic National Insurance number card. If you have the right to work in the UK, you will need to telephone your nearest National Insurance Number Processing Centre to make an appointment. There are three Processing Centres.
- Shaftesbury Square Telephone - 028 9013 8286 if you live in the Belfast area
- Portadown Telephone - 028 3877 3046 if you live in the Southern area of Northern Ireland
- Lisnagelvin Telephone - 028 7185 5407 and 028 7185 5406 if you live in the Northern area