House of Commons Library

National Insurance numbers (NINOs)

Published Monday, June 12, 2017

This note discusses the process by which National Insurance numbers (NINOs) are allocated, the uses to which they are put, and the introduction of the 'Right to Work' test, for individuals requiring a NINO for employment purposes, in July 2006.

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Each person’s entitlement to contributory benefit, based on their record of paying National Insurance contributions on their earnings or profits, is tracked by their own National Insurance number (NINO).  Most people are automatically given a number as they approach age 16.  Anyone who is resident or present in Great Britain and over 16, who is employed or self-employed or who wishes to pay voluntary (Class 3) National Insurance contributions, and who is not already in possession of a NINO, is required to make an application for one.  However, a NINO is not proof of identity, and should not be relied on by employers as proof that someone has the right to work in the UK.

In its report on immigration control published in July 2006, the Home Affairs Committee expressed concerns that in some cases NINOs had been issued to individuals without a check on the applicant’s immigration status or their right to work or to benefits.[1]  On 18 July 2006 the Government announced changes both in the administrative arrangements for allocating NINOs and in the statutory requirements placed on individuals to apply for a NINO, so as to prevent illegal workers being allocated a number.[2] Regulations to give effect to these changes were introduced in November that year. As a consequence, individuals who now wish to apply for a NINO because they have started work must present specific evidence that they have the right to work in this country.[3]

Notes : 

[1]     Fifth report: Immigration Control, 23 July 2006, HC 775 of 2005-06, para 462

[2]     HC Deb 18 July 2006 c20WS

[3]     SI 2006/2897, as amended by SI 2008/223

Commons Briefing papers SN04281

Author: Antony Seely

Topics: National insurance, Taxation

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