About National Insurance Cards

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National insurance cards are the British equivalent to the United States' Social Security card. These cards are sent out before a person's 16th birthday. They are used to track national insurance contributions, and are required when a person is applying for a new job or wanting to collect some sort of benefit.

What is a National Insurance Card?

National insurance card numbers are unique numbers that the United Kingdom assigns to an individual in order to keep track of his national insurance contributions. These contributions are automatically deducted from an employee's wage. National insurance contributions help pay for the National Health Service and a variety of benefits, including retirement pension and job seeker's allowance.

When is a National Insurance Number Required?

In the United States, Social Security numbers are required for employment and are used to report earned wages to the government and determine Social Security benefit eligibility. Social Security numbers are also used to check an individual's credit history. However, the national insurance number in the United Kingdom is strictly used by employers and the government to track national insurance contributions via Pay As You Earn.

Where to Get a National Insurance Card

National insurance numbers are allocated when a child benefit record is set up for the child. It is considered a child reference number until the child reaches 16 when the number changes to a national insurance number. In the event that a person doesn't have a national insurance number and is either applying for work or applying for benefits, the applicant should contact her local job center to fill out an application. The person will be interviewed, and, if eligible, must show proof of her right to work in the United Kingdom.

Replacing a National Insurance Card

A national insurance card should be kept safe. A person is only allocated one replacement national insurance card in his lifetime. Should a person lose his national insurance card, he should report the lost card to his local Department for Work and Pension office. A replacement card can be obtained by contacting the National Insurance Registration Helpline at 0845-915-7006.

The Format of the National Insurance Number Card

The National insurance number comes in three parts. The first part consists of two alphabetical characters, followed by a six-digit number and finishing with another letter. The two-character prefix can be used to determine the year when, and location where, the number was issued. The suffix has no relevance, and a national insurance number missing the suffix is still considered valid. The suffix pertains to a system used before 1975 when contributions were collected through stamps from the post office and were affixed to a contributions card. The card would be full after a year. The suffix would let the Department of Social Security (now the Department for Work and Pension) know what month in which to renew the card.

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