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The difference between an NHS and NIN number

Whilst this might sound trivial to any UK native person or long-term expat, this is a recurring question from our newly arrived clients in London: what is the difference between a National Insurance Number and a National Health Service number? Are they related? And are they obligatory?

Most expats will need both when arriving in the UK.

The National Insurance Number is needed by employers in order to allocate the social contributions that are deducted from UK employees’ salaries – in short, they need it for the payroll. This means that if you are not working in the UK, you do not necessarily need an NIN number, unless you want to claim social benefits.

In addition, it is possible for employers to start the payroll without having the NIN number, meaning a delay in obtaining the NIN number from their employee is an inconvenience but not a major problem. This can be reassuring if you are still waiting for your NIN number to arrive through the post…

The National Health Service number is a completely different system: this is related to the Public Health System. This is an individual number given to each person who lives in the UK, whether they are working or not. This number is useful in case of a public hospital visit, amongst others. It is not obligatory as such, as the NHS has a duty of care in cases of emergencies, but it is strongly recommended to obtain one at some point after your arrival in the UK.

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