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Longtime Expat Contemplating A Return 
1st-Mar-2012 11:48 am
jm paris 2010
Two part post. One long, one short.

Part the First

I've been living in the USA since I was 12. I'm contemplating a return to the UK in 2013. I have retained my British citizenship.

As far as I know, I don't have an NI number. Contraiwise, my I've-only-got-Google research suggests that if my Mum got benefits for me (which she did) she would have had to have set me up with an NI number in order to receive it.

Is that scenario possible? Or was something (gasp!) wrong on the Internet?

(I'd ask my mum, but she's dead. Dad - still in America, also - is no use.)

Mind you, if Mum did register me for an NI number when I was a wee 'un, then begins the exciting process of finding out what it is!

I would just cheerfully shrug and apply for a new NI once in the UK, but I have horrifying visions of the system throwing up my name with a number already attached and hilariously awful consequences ensuing. Besides, not having to wait for the bureaucracy to do its thing would save me some time. I'd really hate to get a job offer only to hear that I can't get paid until I provide an NI number and, oh, did we mention the bureaucracy will take up OMGhowlong to do so...

Thoughts? Suggestions?

At this point, I'm honestly hoping that Google led me astray!

(edited for accuracy because I'm a bit stupid sometimes)

Part The Second

Has anyone else around here done something similar - returned to Britain after leaving as a child? I'm curious to hear others' experiences / advice / horror stories, etc.

1st-Mar-2012 08:23 pm (UTC)
Your NI number isn't like a SSN one at all. You don't get issued one until you're 16yrs old in the UK and ready to work! So don't stress over it and apply for it once you're in the UK again.
1st-Mar-2012 08:34 pm (UTC)
*nod* As I mentioned, I'm entirely open to the probability that the internet led me astray. :)

'Course, the next fun bit lies in getting an NI number when I get to the UK. But that's at least a year away so I'm not going to lie awake at night about it!

1st-Mar-2012 08:34 pm (UTC)
It may involve a trip to a Job Centre Plus (or similar), though.

At my last job, we had a summer vacation student placement. She was a British citizen, but had lived somewhere in France/Switzerland since she was about 10. She had to phone up the helpline, then get given an appointment a few weeks later. Unhelpfully, it appeared only certain Job Centre Plus places could do it - work's office was about 100 meters away from one, whereas she ended up having to go to one the other side of London. (She specifically asked if she could go to the local one, but no.)

You used to be able to get temporary National Insurance numbers. (They got phased out.) This was particularly intended for non-nationals, who had to get a job, then an NI number - but still wanted paying beforehand. Now, you just get the proper NI number first, with or without a job. Not having one sorted out may delay an employer being able to give you your wages.
1st-Mar-2012 11:19 pm (UTC)
Not necessarily true. If the OP's mother received certain benefits (e.g. DLA) directly for her, rather than "because you have children you get benefits", she might have had an NI number assigned. My son has one, and has done since he was 6.
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1st-Mar-2012 09:00 pm (UTC)
A week??

I'm amazed!

I have a dreadful vision of it taking months...
1st-Mar-2012 09:12 pm (UTC)
I'm also an American who got an NI number very quickly and easily. I think I did it on the phone? It's a surprisingly efficient example of bureaucracy.
5th-Mar-2012 08:19 am (UTC)
Also easy for me too, it took like 2 weeks.

Granted, this was in 2007.

I also had to go to a Job Centre Plus. I lived in place X but I had to take a bus and hour away to place Y to get it. That was only scary for me because I hadn't been to place Y by myself before!
1st-Mar-2012 10:31 pm (UTC)
The HMRC website tells you how to find out if you've got a NI number that you've lost: http://www.hmrc.gov.uk/ni/intro/number.htm

You can start work and get paid without an NI number, but you maybe wrongly taxed, which is why it is a good idea to get one as soon as possible if you are intending to work/have started work.
1st-Mar-2012 10:50 pm (UTC)
*nod* I've got some form thingy to fill out and send to the UK. By this point, I strongly suspect there is no NI in place for me and that's cool. It just lets me know what the first thing I'll need to do if/when I get to the UK...
1st-Mar-2012 11:14 pm (UTC)
I applied for two years ago. It was super easy. I called the Job Centre, they sent me a form to fill out and I mailed it back then they mailed me my number. It took a few weeks but that was probably due to delays on my part. I probably could have had it all done in a couple weeks.

I started a new job before I had my number. It just meant I was taxed at the emergency rate until I provided the HR department with my correct NI number.
1st-Mar-2012 11:41 pm (UTC)
Stupid question but how did you maintain Brit citizenship while in the US for so long? Most people I know either end up getting US or dual.
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1st-Mar-2012 11:49 pm (UTC)
Ah, okay. I was under the impression dual with Brit-US was one of the harder ones to get. Thanks!
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2nd-Mar-2012 11:11 am (UTC)
In my experience, if you show up at the bit of the DSS that issues NI numbers saying "I want an NI number" they go "no you don't, you have one, just find out what it is". Then you go "No I don't have one because I haven't lived here for a long time, nor worked here, nor did my mother get any child benefit for me" (if these things are true, if not, you probably do have an NI number allocated) and then they go "all right then, fill in this form". After a while they write back to you saying "here's your NI number".

People forget their NI number all the time or don't know they have one, the main point is to activate the "unknown NI number or NI number not allocated" process, instead of being told to go away and look at your last payslip/tax letter/etc. This process will either find your NI number or get you one allocated.

They are somewhat bureaucratic and reluctant to just give you an NI number because (a) most people have one and (b) getting an NI number for someone not entitled to one is central to large scale benefit fraud, so the people who can issue them are limited. So you need to insist a bit.
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