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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 08:44 pm (UTC)
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.

This is exactly what I needed to hear - especially as I've got some US expats over there telling me "Oh, just get a temp number, I did!".

Thank you!
1st-Mar-2012 10:48 pm (UTC)
All I had to do was make a call to the JobCentre - they sent me paperwork in the mail. It might be faster to do it in person, but you can always call them to ask first and potentially save yourself a trip.
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.
1st-Mar-2012 11:52 pm (UTC)

And there's the spanner in the works!


I don't know the exact circumstances of the benefits and, unfortunately, my mum has long since passed on, so I never will know!

But it seems that HRMC form CA 5403 *should* be able to track down an NI assigned to my name, if one exists. I hope!
1st-Mar-2012 11:56 pm (UTC)
*nod* If you ever had one, they'll find it. That's the theory, anyway. :)
(Deleted comment)
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.
2nd-Mar-2012 08:20 am (UTC)
It was super easy for me too. They did a three-minute interview over the phone, I think, and I sent in the paperwork. It came really fast.
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.
1st-Mar-2012 11:45 pm (UTC)
She didn't say that she hadn't taken US citizenship, just that she retained British citizenship. Since it's more or less impossible under British law to truly renounce British citizenship, retaining that while also taking US citizenship is pretty easy.
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!
1st-Mar-2012 11:59 pm (UTC)
Actually, I am a dual national, but I don't bruit it about very much.

And, from what I've seen and read (nothing official!), dual US/UK citizenship is a non-issue unless the dual national decides to take a job requiring govt security clearance (such as in the State Department, or a Ministry) or if they join the military. At that point, a person would have to give up their citizenship of the other country.

ETA: fwiw, I had a green card for about 20 years before I finally became a citizen without any problems.

Edited at 2012-03-02 12:01 am (UTC)
2nd-Mar-2012 12:23 am (UTC)
Yeah, I know of people that had work visas, residency or whatever for quite some time before formal citizenship. I have a bunch of ~international friends so sometimes I can't keep up with which countries allow what haha :) Some allow dual+ citizenship but claim to only one nationality, if that's the way to word it. Good luck with the move!
2nd-Mar-2012 12:36 am (UTC)
I'm hanging on to my British citizenship like grim death - for obvious reasons.

Ironically, one of my motivations to finally become a US citizen was to grant me the ability to leave the country for a few weeks/months (job hunting, ahem) without threatening my ability to return. Permanent residency can be a fragile thing, sometimes and it would suck to spend six months in the UK, give up on the notion and then find out I'd have to start the immigration process all over again.
2nd-Mar-2012 06:34 am (UTC)
That's pretty much the reason I am getting my UK Citizenship as soon as I'm eligible. We're not planning on moving to the US, but I have no idea what might happen with my family that could require a longer stay in the US in the future!
3rd-Mar-2012 05:04 pm (UTC)
Be sure to check out your continuing tax obligations as a US citizen when you re enter the UK, as you will still have to file and pay your US taxes, even as a dual citizen. It's the main reason I never want to get full US citizenship, because I do not want to be chased forever by the iRS if I do repatriate.

I wrote you a longer post about this with a useful link, but the mods have screened it and it hasn't appeared yet, despite me contacting them.
3rd-Mar-2012 05:28 pm (UTC)
*nod* I know about the tax obligations - was a bit startled by that but *grin/shrug* whaddyagonnado?

In the end, I became a US citizen for two reasons - I wanted to be able to vote (didn't the locals start a war over no taxation without representation? Fortunately, I had enough sense NOT to say that at my citizenship interview) and because my late husband wanted to see me sworn in before died. The cancer, unfortunately, had other plans and he died three weeks before the ceremony, but at least he knew it was going to happen. :-/
12th-Mar-2012 10:38 pm (UTC)
There is a tax agreement in place, so the first $80K or so you earn in the UK, it's presumed you're paying taxes on that properly and you don't pay taxes in the US, though you do still have to file. I strongly suggest an accountant that's skilled in this.
12th-Mar-2012 10:46 pm (UTC)

I remember the hairiness my father went through when we moved UK to US, back in the 80s. Pros all the way, methinks. Some corners would cost too much to cut.
2nd-Mar-2012 12:22 am (UTC)
The UK has never had a problem with dual citizenship, especially since there is nothing in British law regarding true renouncement. Up until about 10 years ago the US required renouncement of any foreign citizenship in order to obtain US citizenship, but that is no longer the case. However, even then, you could just go to a UK embassy, state your renouncement in front of the ambassador, turn in your UK passport and leave with a sheet of paper saying that you had done so. You could then use that bit of paper to get your US citizenship and then apply for a new UK passport again afterwards, since the renouncement would have been completely meaningless as far as the UK law was concerned. As long as the US didn't discover you'd done this, then you were effectively a dual citizen.
2nd-Mar-2012 12:32 am (UTC)

I read about that on the Brit consulate site. Thought it was very interesting. I guess the whole 'you can change your mind' apparatus is in place for anyone who is - under some awful circumstance - compelled to renounce their citizenship against their will.

The US still gets a bit shirty about it, though. During my last bout of job hunting (less than a year ago) I was told (unofficially, mind you) that I'd have to go through the giving-up-the-Brit-passport routine if I wanted to take a job with the State Dept. But said position also required a security clearance and I believe that's why.

If I want to go shovel papers for the local city municipality, my dual citizenship is not a problem.

Also, I've never tried to register to vote in the UK, and that's probably saved me a few headaches!
2nd-Mar-2012 03:16 am (UTC)
I don't think you could register to vote anyway - you have to have been resident in the UK within the last 15 years and have been registered to vote there during that time. My husband and I are both British by birth, but are in the final stages of getting our US citizenship. He has worked for the US government (NASA) for almost 12 years and has security clearance, but he is only employed as a contractor. He can't do the exact same job on the federal payroll as he is not a citizen. It's totally arbitrary how this stuff works!
2nd-Mar-2012 01:21 pm (UTC)
Up until about 10 years ago the US required renouncement of any foreign
citizenship in order to obtain US citizenship

The US could never force the other country to comply, though. Even if you mumbled some words saying you were giving up your citizenship of [wherever], that country could just ignore it - which Britain did.

When doing the reverse situation - a US citizen gaining citizenship of elsewhere - the US Supreme Court held for decades that another country forcing you to give up US citizenship would be ignored. Perkins v Elg (1939) had that for a girl obtaining Swedish citizenship. Afroyim v Rusk (1967) held that the 14th Amendment made citizenship a constitutionally protected right, and Congress could not pass laws forcing people to give up their citizenship.

Much of the rest of the US Government (and, in particular, the State Department) tried to ignore this sort of thing for quite a while, but the courts knocked them back pretty routinely.

http://www.richw.org/dualcit/cases.html is fascinating, if dry legal scholarship floats your boat. (It floats mine.)
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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