This article will explain about what is needed when working in the UK including what a National Insurance Number is and what you need to do to get one.

What is a National Insurance (NI) number?

If you’re looking for work or starting work, and you have the right to work in the UK you will need a National Insurance number. This applies to all students of all nationalities. UK students would have received a National Insurance number at the age of 16 years. 

Your National Insurance number is unique to you and it makes sure that any National Insurance contributions and Income Tax that you pay are properly recorded against your name. Employers also require you to have your National Insurance number when you start working for them as they will use your NI number as your payroll number. This article therefore applies to non UK students but if you are a UK student and don’t know your number, you can also use this information.

How do I get a National Insurance number?

There are several steps you must take in order to get your NI number.

  • To apply for your number you need to contact the National Insurance number application line on 0800 141 2075 (phone lines are open 8.00 am to 6.00 pm Monday to Friday). These phone lines may be quite busy and you may have to wait for your call to answered or you can telephone at a different time of day.
  •  After contacting the application line, there are two ways of obtaining your national insurance number depending on your nationality.

EEA Students will be required to attend an interview and you will receive a letter, confirming your interview date, time and location of your interview (nearest office is Southampton). You will be sent a list of all the documents you will need to bring along for your interview. At your interview, you will be asked questions about why you need a National Insurance number and you will be asked to confirm your identity, that you are a student and your current address.

International Students are usually sent out a postal application to complete and you will need to complete the forms and return them within one month.

More information about applying for a National Insurance number is available on the UK Government website and the UKCISA website

When can I start work?

You can start work before your National Insurance number arrives if you can prove that you can work in the UK. Some employers may prefer you to have your NI number before offering you any employment. When you have received your National Insurance number, let your employer know as soon as you have received it. Keep your National Insurance number safe but it will be detailed on your pay slips.

Work restrictions (hours) and evidence of studies

If you are an international (non EU) student studying on a Tier 4 visa, there will be restrictions on the hours you can work in the UK whilst studying. See this article on Working hours guidance to find out more.

Income Tax

Income Tax is a tax you pay on your income. When you start work you may pay tax immediately because your personal tax allowance (the amount of income you can earn before you pay tax) is spread evenly over the tax year. You will pay tax on earnings from full or part-time work, including bonuses and tips. For more information on taxable income please visit

There is a range of information on paying income tax, the tax rates, working in more than one job and how to claim a refund at the end of the tax year, visit:Tax Guide for Students and there is also a section for international students.

Most students working part-time will be employed under the Pay As You Earn (PAYE) system. Your employer uses this to take any income tax and national insurance contributions before they pay your wages and your tax code tells your employer how much to deduct.

International students studying on a Tier 4 visa must be paid under the PAYE system due to their visa working restrictions. For more information for Tier 4 visa students working in the UK and the types of work that you can undertake, visit the UKCISA website    

How do I look for part-time work?

The University’s dedicated Careers and Employability Service is the best place to start, visit us at 28 Guildhall Walk and talk to one of the team. 

If you need any further help or guidance the Careers and Employability Service has a dedicated team of friendly, experienced advisers on hand to talk to you. You can drop-in at the Careers and Employability Centre at any time during our opening hours or call us on +44 (0)23 9284 2684. You can also access a wide range of information and advice on our website at

How to Contact us

Visit us at:

Careers and Employability Service

University of Portsmouth

28 Guildhall Walk



Opening hours:

Monday–Thursday: 8.30am–5pm

Friday: 8.30am–4pm


Telephone or Email:

t: +44 (0)23 9284 2684


Follow us:






Enter your email address to receive a notification when the article is updated
Email Address

Was this article helpful
Thank you for your feedback
How can we improve?