General Information


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Bank Accounts
National Insurance Number

General information for all categories

This section will explain some of the important areas you, as a migrant worker will need to know about, such as healthcare, setting up a bank account etc.


The National Health Service (NHS) in the UK provides the healthcare system. The majority of the services and care provided by the NHS is free of charge although items such as dental treatment and prescriptions must be paid for (there are no fees for prescriptions in Northern Ireland and Scotland).

NHS treatment that is always free

In the UK, medical treatment for emergencies is always free. Treatment from certain NHS walk-in centres (which offer fast and convenient medical advice and care, and are located at various places around the country) is free when they are treating an emergency. Treatment for certain infectious diseases is also free, but this does not include HIV and AIDS, for which only diagnosis and connected counselling sessions are free for everyone. Family planning services and compulsory psychiatric treatment are universally free.

Free NHS treatment from a GP

People who are ‘ordinarily resident’ in the UK are entitled to register with (and be seen by) a General Practitioner (GP) for free. An ‘ordinary resident’ is usually considered to be someone who has legally been in the UK (or is planning to be in UK) for six months or more, and can prove that they are here for a settled purpose – for instance, they may be studying or working in the UK. The rules around who GPs should treat for free are fairly flexible. A GP can choose to register overseas visitors as temporary residents, or, if they are in the UK for longer than three months, accept them onto their lists. Technically this could apply to failed asylum seekers or immigrants, although this is left down to the decision of the individual GP. If a GP decides not to register an overseas visitor or treat them as a temporary resident, they can still treat that individual on a private basis, but this means that they will be charged. Nationals of countries that are part of the European Economic Area (EEA), and who are carrying a European Health Insurance Card, are entitled to the same level of GP care that UK residents get, for conditions that arise during their stay. This includes on-going medical treatment, such as blood tests or injections. You can apply for a European Health Insurance Card online at You should register with a local health centre as soon as possible rather than wait until you need a doctors services.

Free NHS treatment at hospitals

Even if you’re entitled to free GP treatment in the UK, medical treatment from hospitals will not necessarily be free, unless your condition is considered to be an emergency. You can receive NHS hospital treatment for free if:

  • You’ve been living legally in the UK for at least 12 months (temporary absences of up to 3 months are ignored).
  • You’ve come to work in the UK, either as an employee or self-employed person. This does not include people on short business trips, and it only relates to people who are actually working, not just looking for work.
  • You’ve come to permanently live in the UK, and have had an application for permanent residence approved.
  • You’re studying in the UK on a course that lasts 6 months or more, or which, if it lasts less than 6 months, is substantially funded by the UK government.
  • You’re a refugee or asylum seeker, or are waiting for your asylum request to be considered.
  • You’re working in an EEA country but are paying compulsory UK national insurance contributions.
  • You’ve been working abroad for no longer than 5 years, but have lived legally in the UK for ten continuous years at some point.
  • You’re from an EEA country but are referred to the UK for specified treatment with an E112 or E123 form.
  • You’re an unpaid worker with a voluntary organisation that offers services similar to those of a Health Authority of Local Authority social services department.
  • You’re employed on a ship or vessel registered in the UK or working offshore on the UK sector of the Continental Shelf.
  • You’re a prisoner, or detained by the immigration authorities, in the UK.
  • You’ve been referred by your home country for specified treatment in the UK under the terms of a bilateral healthcare agreement.
  • You have been formally identified or suspected as being a victim of human trafficking.
  • You are the spouse, civil partner or dependent child of anyone who is exempt under the above criteria, if you are living permanently with the exempt person.
  • If you don’t fit into any of these categories, you will still be able to get NHS treatment for conditions that occurred after arrival in the UK only, if you fit into the following categories:

  • Anyone who normally lives in another EEA member state but is visiting the UK.
  • Anyone, or the spouse or child of anyone, who is a national of a country that has signed the European Social Charter but is not entitled to be provided with services under a bilateral agreements (currently Turkey and areas of Cyprus not covered under the EEA arrangements) and is genuinely without the means to pay for their treatment.
  • Anyone, or the spouse or child of anyone, who has lived legally in the UK for 10 continuous years at some point but who is now living in another EEA member state or in certain countries with which the UK has a bilateral healthcare agreement.
  • Anyone living in a country with which the UK has a bilateral healthcare agreement.
  • Bank Accounts

    Bank Account

    In order to open a bank account you’ll need to complete an application form and provide certain personal information. For some accounts you’ll also need to pay money in and the bank may want to check your credit history. Once the account’s open you can start managing your money. When opening a bank account you will be asked for proof of your identity, such as a passport or if you are from a country in the EU or EEA a National Identity Card, Residence Permit or a National Driving Licence. You will also be asked to provide proof of a UK address a letter from your employer or pay slips will be acceptable with most banks although corresspondance with a government department would be the most widely accepted proof of address. The bank may also want to see proof of your previous or permenant address in your home country. A driving licence or identity card may be acceptable for this.

    National Insurance Number

    ni card

    In order to work in the UK you will need a National Insurance Number. You pay National Insurance contributions to build up your entitlement to certain social security benefits, including the State Pension. The type and level of National Insurance contributions you pay depends on how much you earn and whether you’re employed or self employed. Your National Insurance number is your own personal account number. The number ensures that the National Insurance contributions and the tax you pay are properly recorded on your account. It also acts as a reference number for the whole social security system.

    Who uses your National Insurance number?

    You must give your National Insurance number to:

  • HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC)
  • your employer
  • Department for work and Pensions (DWP), if you claim benefits
  • your local council, if you claim Housing Benefit
  • the Student Loan Company if you apply for a student loan
  • You will also be required to provide your National Insurance number if you open and Individual Savings Account (ISA). Entitlement to many benefits depends on your National Insurance contribution record (see ‘Benefits that depend on National Insurance contributions’ below) so it’s very important that you keep your number safe and do not reveal it to anyone who does not need it. This will prevent identity fraud.

    How to get a National Insurance number

    If you don’t already have a National Insurance number you must apply for one:

  • as soon as you start work
  • as soon as you or your partner claims benefit
  • To be able to apply you must be:

  • over 16 years of age
  • resident in the United Kingdom
  • If you are a parent or guardian and receiving Child Benefit, any children you care for will automatically get a card showing their National Insurance number just before they reach the age of 16. To apply for a National Insurance number you will need to telephone the Jobcentre plus National Insurance allocation service helpline on 0845 600 0643 or contact the local Social Security Office. They will make sure you need a number and arrange for you to undertake an evidence of identity interview.

    Evidence of identity interview

    The interview will usually be one-to-one (unless, for example, you need an interpreter). The interviewer will ask you questions about your background and circumstances. The interviewer may also ask you to fill in an application form.

    If you don’t have any official documents

    If you haven’t got any official documents you still have to go to the interview. You might be able to prove your identity with the information you give at the interview.

    National Insurance rates

    The following amounts apply for the 2009-10 tax year:

    If you’re employed
  • if you earn above £110 a week (the ‘earnings threshold’) and up to £844 per week you pay 11 per cent of this amount as ‘Class 1’ National Insurance contributions
  • you also pay one per cent of earnings above £844 a week as Class 1 National Insurance contributions
  • you will pay a lower amount as an employee if you are a member of your employer’s contracted out pension scheme
  • If you’re self-employed
  • you pay ‘Class 2’ National Insurance contributions at a flat rate weekly amount of £2.40
  • you also pay ‘Class 4’ National Insurance contributions as a percentage of your taxable profits – you pay eight per cent on annual taxable profits between £5,715 and £43,875 and one per cent on any taxable profit over that amount
  • if your earnings in the 2009-10 tax year are expected to be less than £5,075 then you may be entitled to the Small Earnings Exception, meaning you don’t have to pay any Class 2 National Insurance contributions – you can apply for Small Earnings Exception certificate for the 2009-10 tax year on form CF10
  • Benefits that depend on National Insurance contributions

    Your entitlement to the following benefits and/or the amount you can get will depend on your (or in some cases your spouse or civil partner’s) National Insurance contributions and your country of origin:

  • contribution-based Jobseeker’s Allowance (Class 1 National Insurance contributions only)
  • Incapacity Benefit (if you can’t work for long periods due to illness or injury)
  • contribution-based Employment and Support Allowance (ESA)
  • State Pension
  • additional State Pension (Class 1 National Insurance contributions only)
  • Widowed Parents’ Allowance
  • Bereavement Allowance
  • Bereavement Payment
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