Social Security

Working in Europe | Pension rights | United Kingdom

Residents of the UK are entitled to certain social security benefits while living in the UK, provided they have paid National Insurance contributions over a certain number of years. Be aware of your access and rights to social security when you move to the UK.

What are National Insurance Contributions?

National Insurance contributions (NICs) are payments made to the UK tax office which entitle you to social security, certain benefits and a pension. NICs are automatically deducted from the wages of workers or are calculated from self-assessment tax returns submitted by the self-employed.

You can apply for a National Insurance number through the local Jobcentre Plus or social security office.

To get a National Insurance number you must have the right to work or study in the UK. Once in the UK, you can apply for a website on National Insurance number.

Will I be covered by social security in the UK?

This depends on your nationality, your activity in UK, and whether you have previously paid UK National Insurance contributions. If you are a national from the European Economic Area (EEA) you will normally be entitled to the same benefits as a UK citizen subject to certain conditions such as length of time you have been in the country.

Learn about the benefits you can receive from paying toward National Insurance Contributions.

Researchers from EEA

If you are living in the UK as an EEA or Swiss national, then you will have the same entitlement to public funds as a UK citizen, including social security benefits.

If you are from outside the EEA or Switzerland, you will not be entitled to access public funds in the UK under the points based system.

Individuals entering the UK under this visa will not be entitled to social security, and are expected to earn or have sufficient funds to meet both their own and their dependents’ needs.

You will, however, have access to free healthcare through the NHS, as will any dependants. Any entitlement to social security in the UK will also depend upon your entry visa. Each visa tier offers you different rights to social security.

Under this visa, you will be classed as a self-employed or employed individual, as a result you will be expected to pay the NICs.

This means that you may be entitled to benefits such as employment support allowance, statutory maternity pay and allowance if you have paid sufficient NICs over a minimum time period. However, you will not be entitled to publicly funded benefits such as housing allowance or child benefit.

Under this visa, you will be classed as a self-employed or employed individual; as a result you will be expected to pay the NICs.

This means that you may be entitled to benefits such as employment support allowance, statutory maternity pay and allowance, if you have paid sufficient NICs over a minimum time period. However, you will not be entitled to publicly funded benefits such as housing allowance or child benefit.

If your visa and placement is funded through a bursary or grant, you are expected to have sufficient funds to provide for yourself and any dependents.

If your visa and placement is funded through a bursary or grant, you are expected to have sufficient funds to provide for yourself and any dependents.

For further information see the HMRC website: Paying UK tax and national insurance and the Department of Work and Pensions website on benefits.

Any dependents, such as family, may have different access to social security benefits in the UK as they depend upon terms of entry to the UK.

See also the UK Immigration rules 6A regarding access to public funds.

Paying into other schemes

In some cases it may be advisable to continue to pay into your home country’s social security scheme, at a lower rate, in order to protect your rights to a pension, etc. You should check this with your home country social security office.