National Insurance when you work abroad

Our team of experts tell you all about your National Insurance contributions if you work abroad

Our experts at DSR Tax Claims know how hard it is to find good, quality information about HMRC’s National Insurance rules and regulations that is easy to understand, and that’s why we have created these handy guides to tell you everything you need to know. Our aim is to make life easier for our clients and that is why we want to share our expertise with you. You can also call our friendly team on 0330 122 9972 – we’re the tax experts you can trust.

Do you need to pay National Insurance if you work abroad?

Whether you will need to pay National Insurance if you work abroad depends on a number of factors, including where you work and whether you are self-employed. And of course, you might choose to continue to pay National Insurance contributions on a voluntary basis to keep your entitlement to certain UK benefits, including your State Pension.

What if you work in the EEA (European Economic Area)?

If you work in the EU or the EEA (which is the EU but also includes Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway), what you need to do about your National Insurance contributions depends on your particular circumstances. This also applies if you work in Switzerland, which is neither in the EU or EEA.

  • If you work for an employer in the EEA: you will usually pay the local equivalent of National Insurance (or social security contributions) in the EEA country in which you work, instead of National Insurance. This is so that you will be covered by that country’s social security laws and maybe even their benefits. You may also get free or reduced cost medical care in the country where you work. However, this means that there will be a gap in your UK National Insurance record which might affect your entitlement to certain benefits, including your State Pension.

  • If you work for a UK employer who sends you to work in an EEA country: if you are abroad for up to 2 years, you may still be able to continue to pay National Insurance contributions – this means that you won’t need to pay social security contributions abroad and you will prevent a gap in your National Insurance record. Either you or your employer can check which you are supposed to pay by sending form CA3822 to HMRC, but if your employer hasn’t already informed HMRC that they are sending employees abroad, it can take a few weeks for this information to get back to you.

  • If you are self-employed in the EEA, you may be able to carry on paying National Insurance if you are usually self-employed in the UK and are only working abroad temporarily (for up to 2 years). This will mean that you won’t have to pay social security contributions in the country you are working in. You will need to send form CA3837 to HMRC, unless you are the director of a limited company, in which case you need to use form CA3822 instead.

  • If you work in 2 or more EEA countries, you might be able to continue paying National Insurance (if one of the countries is the UK).

You can check which country you are supposed to make your social security (or National Insurance) contributions to. If you are in the UK, you can fill in HMRC form CA8421i but if you are already in the EEA country, you will need to check with the local authority which deals with social security in that country.

What if you work in a country with a bilateral agreement?

If you work for an employer in a country that has what is known as a ‘Reciprocal Agreement’ or ‘Double Contribution Convention’ (also known as a ‘bilateral Social Security agreement), you will usually pay social security contributions in that country instead of National Insurance.

The countries which currently have these agreements are:

  • Barbados

  • Bermuda

  • Bosnia-Herzegovina

  • Canada

  • Chile

  • Croatia

  • Guernsey

  • Israel

  • Jamaica

  • Japan

  • Jersey

  • The former Yugoslav republic of Macedonia

  • Mauritius

  • Montenegro

  • New Zealand

  • Philippines

  • Republic of Korea

  • Serbia

  • Turkey

  • USA

However, you might still be able to continue to pay National Insurance contributions to keep your entitlement to certain UK benefits instead of paying to the country in which you are working in, if you are working there temporarily at the request of your employer. You can ask your employer to check this for you by sending form CA9107 to HMRC. This might affect your entitlement to healthcare and benefits in the country in which you are working so it is advisable to ask your employer for more details.

What if you work in any other country?

If you work in any other country not already covered in this guide then you will carry on paying National Insurance for the first 52 weeks you work abroad, if you meet the following 3 conditions:

  • Your employer has a place of business in the UK

  • You are ordinarily a resident of the UK

  • You were living in the UK immediately before you started working in the other country.

If you are self-employed, you don’t need to pay Class 2 National Insurance contributions but you can continue to make voluntary contributions if you want to make sure you are still entitled to a State Pension and other contribution-based benefits.

What if you work for the UK government or HM Armed Forces?

You will usually still pay National Insurance if you work in one of the occupations and you are sent abroad to work:

  • Working for HM Armed Forces

  • Working in an embassy, diplomatic mission or consular post – or if you work for someone who does

  • Working as a UK civil servant or any other government worker.

What about voluntary contributions?

If you are eligible, you can choose to pay voluntary National Insurance contributions, which will go towards your State Pension and other contribution-based benefits if you return to live and work in the UK.

To be eligible to pay voluntary Class 2 National Insurance contributions, you must have:

  • Worked in the UK immediately before leaving

  • Previously lived in the UK for 3 years in a row, or paid 3 years of National Insurance.

If you live but don’t work abroad, you can make voluntary Class 3 National Insurance contributions, but only if you have lived in the UK for 3 years continuously in the past or have paid 3 years of contributions.

It is important to note that making voluntary National Insurance contributions from abroad won’t give you entitlement to healthcare in the country in which you are currently living and working.

How can DSR Tax Claims help?

We know that figuring out your National Insurance eligibility when working abroad can be a complicated affair, even with our helpful guide to tell you everything you might need to know. It’s all very well reading about it and knowing what HMRC’s stand on it is – but how do you apply that to your own circumstances? It can seem like an absolute minefield but help is always available and you don’t need to battle through this alone. Our team of experts at DSR Tax Claims are always on hand to help our clients and our excellent standing with HMRC means that we can make sure you don’t fall foul of their regulations, while claiming your maximum tax relief. We can even take care of all that paperwork and deal with HMRC on your behalf too. Call our friendly team on 0330 122 9972 – we’re the tax experts you can trust.

This page was last updated on 25/10/2018.

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