Do students pay National Insurance contributions?
This page looks at whether you need to pay National Insurance contributions (NIC) when you are working and studying in the UK and what happens to any contributions you have paid when you leave the UK.
The UK left the European Union (EU) on 31 January 2020 and entered a transitional period, currently due to end on 31 December 2020, during which EU law continues to apply in the UK. The UK’s relationship with the EU beyond the end of the transitional period has not yet been finalised. Please note that the guidance below reflects the law as it applied before the UK’s departure from the EU, and as it will continue to apply throughout the transitional period.
We look at below:
Students who work in the UK have to pay UK NIC if they are aged 16 or over. This applies to most full-time students in higher education.
Postgraduate students who are paid for teaching while in the UK may be liable to pay NIC depending on the level of their earnings. If this affects you, we suggest that you speak to the payroll office of your college or university.
Placement students have to pay Class 1 NIC for any earnings they receive during work experience. If you continue to receive any wages while you are at college these earnings will also be liable to NIC.
In some situations you may be able to gain an exemption (meaning you will not have to pay) from NIC. Whether or not this is possible depends on the country you have come from:
- If you are from a European Economic Area (EEA) country and come to the UK with a certificate A1, E101 or E102 from an EEA country, showing that you are exempt under special rules, you will be exempt from NIC until the certificate expires.
- If you are from a country which has a reciprocal social security agreement with the UK (see below to find out if your country has a reciprocal agreement), you may also be able to obtain an exemption from NIC.
There is a list of countries with which the UK has social security agreements on the Department of Work and Pensions (DWP) website.
International students who work in the UK are liable to, and pay, NIC. It is not normally possible to obtain a refund of any of the NIC paid even if you are here for just a short time. However, if you pay NIC in error, for example, you had a certificate A1 but your UK employer did not apply it, you can get a refund.
The NIC is not strictly transferable to another country's scheme; however, it may help to determine eligibility to state benefits in that other country. The position varies, depending on whether you are returning to a country within the EEA or to a country that has a reciprocal social security agreement with the UK.
If you return to another EEA country after employment in the UK and make a claim to benefit under that country's scheme, under certain circumstances the UK NIC may help the claim.
If a record of UK contributions is needed by the authorities in the other country to decide a claim they will contact HMRC on your behalf to obtain details of your UK NIC record.
In some cases, the foreign authority may ask you to get:
- a statement to assist sickness benefit claims (formerly known as an E104). In fact, the foreign authority needs to request this from the UK authorities by sending them form SED040;
- a Portable document U1 to assist unemployment benefit claims in the EEA (formerly known as an E301); or
- a full statement of National Insurance contributions (formerly known as an E205).
If so, you should complete and return form CA-3916, if possible enclosing copies of your last payslip and any forms P60 from your employer showing your total pay, tax and NIC deductions issued at the end of a tax year.
The benefit claim in the other country will be decided using that country’s own rules; it will not be decided under UK rules. The fact that the UK issues a statement of contributions paid in the UK does not automatically entitle you to benefits in the other country.
What happens to my NIC if I return to a country with which the UK has a reciprocal social security agreement?
There are special rules if you come to the UK from one of the countries with which the UK has a social security agreement. Details of how NIC works for someone who has worked in the UK can be found in the individual social security agreements.
There is a list of countries with which the UK has social security agreements on GOV.UK.