Find out about UK pensions and social security.
This depends on your nationality, your activity in UK, and whether you have previously paid any UK National Insurance contributions.
If you are a national from the European Economic Area (EEA) you will normally be entitled to the same benefits as a UK citizen subject to certain conditions. Some benefits are linked to National Insurance Contributions (NICs) paid by workers (see below), for example Employment Support Allowance, Statutory Maternity Pay and maternity allowance, while other benefits are covered through public funds, such as housing allowance and child benefit. You can find out more from the Department of Work and Pensions.
EURES, the multilingual European Job Mobility Portal has useful information regarding specific benefits in different countries and your entitlements as an EEA national.
If you are from outside the EEA your home country may have a separate agreement with the UK regarding specific social security benefits. You can find a list of these agreements on the Department for Work and Pensions website. Otherwise, your entitlement to social security will depend on whether you are under immigration control. If you are studying in the UK, for example on a Tier 4 (general) student visa, and funded through a grant or bursary, or a Tier 5 visa to undertake training or do research that is supernumerary (ie you are not employed), you are expected to have sufficient funds to meet your own needs and those of any dependents. The same conditions apply to a Tier 1 exceptional talent visa. You will not be entitled to social security, either through public funds or NICs-based benefits. You will, however, have access to free healthcare through the NHS, as will any dependents.
If you are entering the UK on a work visa, for example as a Tier 1 graduate entrepreneur, Tier 1 entrepreneur, or Tier 2 (general) visa for skilled workers, then you will be classed as either self-employed or employed and will pay NICs. This means that you may be entitled to NICs-related benefits such as Employment Support Allowance, Statutory Maternity Pay and maternity allowance if you have paid sufficient NICs over a minimum time period. However, you will not be entitled to publicly funded benefits such as housing allowance or child benefit.
See also the UK Immigration rules 6A regarding access to public funds.
National Insurance contributions (NICs) are payments made to the UK tax office which entitle you to social security, certain benefits and a pension. NICs are automatically deducted from the wages of workers or are calculated from self-assessment tax returns submitted by the self-employed. Those who are employed and earning over a minimum threshold pay Class 1 NICs; the self-employed pay Class 2 NICs at a basic flat rate and Class 4 NICs as a percentage of taxable profits. Any gaps in a person’s national insurance record, or lack of payment while on a grant, can be supplemented with voluntary contributions (Class 3 NICs) in order to protect the right to a UK pension.
Only those who are about to start work or make a benefit claim need to apply for an NI number.
If you are a non-EEA citizen and entering the UK to work, for example on a Tier 1 graduate entrepreneur, Tier 1 entrepreneur, or Tier 2 (general) visa for skilled workers, then you will be classed as either self-employed or employed and will pay NICs.
For more information about NICs visit Directgov.
You can apply for a National Insurance number through the local Jobcentre Plus or social security office. To get a National Insurance number you must have the right to work or study in the UK. Once in the UK, you can telephone Jobcentre Plus for an application form (telephone 0845 600 0643, Monday to Friday, 8am to 6pm). They may also ask you to go to an interview to confirm your identity.
For more information see the UK Gov website on National Insurance.
If you are just visiting the UK you will not have access to public funds. If you are living in the UK then your access to public funds will depend on your nationality.
If you are living in the UK as an EEA or Swiss national, then you will have the same entitlement to public funds as a UK citizen, including social security benefits. See the International section of the Department of Work and Pensions.
EURES, the multilingual European Job Mobility Portal also has useful information regarding specific benefits in different countries and your entitlements as an EEA national.
If you are a non-EEA national but have permission to live in the UK through the points-based visa system, you have no recourse to public funds and therefore no entitlement to claim benefits such as income support or child benefit, tax credits or housing assistance. Public funds do not include the benefits covered by National Insurance contributions (NICs) paid through earnings. See below to find out about NICs-based benefits if you are working in the UK.
If you are an EEA or Swiss national, then you have the right to live and work in the UK, and to claim benefits through public funds. You may also apply for a NI number and claim for NICs-related benefits if you become ill or incapacitated, have a baby, or retire from work, so long as you have paid a minimum threshold of contributions through your earnings.
If you take up a job offer in the UK and pay UK tax and NICs you will then be entitled to NICs-based benefits. These include support if you become ill or incapacitated, have a baby, or retire from work, so long as you have paid a minimum threshold of contributions:
Find out more from the Department of Work and Pensions.
See also the guide for migrant workers from HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC) “Coming to work in the UK? We’ll show you the way to pay your taxes.”
If you are coming to the UK on a Tier 5 (government authorised exchange) visa as a sponsored researcher, or sponsored scientific researcher, you will be in receipt of a fellowship or other funds and doing research that is supernumerary – ie, not taking up a job offer with a UK employer. You therefore will not have to pay UK tax or national insurance and you will not be entitled to public funds including benefits. You will have to demonstrate that you have sufficient funds to meet your needs. For further detailed advice, contact your host institution and your fellowship provider.
Yes, if you are working in the UK on a Tier 1 graduate entrepreneur, or entrepreneur visa then you are considered to be either self-employed, or a director of a business, and will therefore have to pay UK tax and National Insurance. However, you will have no recourse to public funds.
For further information see the HMRC website: Paying UK tax and national insurance
And the UKBA Immigration rules on access to public funds.
If you are an EEA or Swiss national, then you have the right to live and study in the UK, and to claim certain social security benefits through public funds.
If you are from a country outside the EEA or Switzerland, and you are studying in the UK, for example on a Tier 4 (general) student visa, you are expected to have sufficient funds to meet your own needs and those of any dependents. You will not have any entitlement to social security, either through public funds or National Insurance Contributions (NICs)-based benefits. If, however, you choose to supplement your income while in the UK by working (permitted for up to 20 hours a week), then you will have to register as employed, or self-employed, and pay tax and NICs. This may then entitle you to NICs-based benefits if you have paid beyond a certain threshold amount of NICs and for a minimum time period (see above).
See the HMRC website on Conditions of stay for students
If your civil partner, spouse or any dependents are EEA or Swiss nationals, then they will be entitled to the same social security benefits as UK citizens. If they are non-EEA nationals, and they are granted leave to remain or entry to the UK under the points based system, they do not have recourse to public funds and are therefore not entitled to social security. This includes dependents entering on Tier 1 migrant, Tier 2 migrant, Tier 4 (general) student or Tier 5 (temporary worker) migrant visas. They will, however, be entitled to free healthcare and (for children) education while lawfully living with you.
For more information see the UKBA website on family members of migrants.
In some cases it may be advisable to continue to pay into your home country’s social security scheme, at a lower rate, in order to protect your rights to a pension, etc. You should check this with your home country social security office.
If you are responsible for bringing up children you may be eligible for Child Benefit or Child Tax Credit if you are a national of the EEA or Switzerland. If you and any children are from outside the EEA or Switzerland, and you are permitted leave to remain, or enter, the UK through the points-based visa system, then you will not be eligible to claim Child Benefit or Child Tax Credit. You will, however, have access to state healthcare, and education for children under 18. Find out more in our section on Family benefits.
The state pension in the UK is currently in two parts; the basic state pension, and the state second pension. Both depend on National Insurance Contributions (NICs), but whereas the basic state pension is at a flat rate, depending only on the number of years that you have paid NICs, the state second pension is linked to how much you earned and how much National Insurance you have actually paid. NICs are automatically deducted from your salary by your employer.
Basic State Pension
In 2013, the full basic state pension is £107.45 per week for a single person. To claim a full basic state pension, you will need to have made 30 years of national insurance contributions (NICs) (less for women reaching retirement age before 2020). If you have made less than 30 years of contributions, you will a reduced state pension. You are entitled to a portion of the state pension after just one year of working and paying NICs in the UK.
Additional State Pension
The Additional State Pension is a second pension based on your earnings and National Insurance Contributions (NICs). It is only available to those people who are employed and earning more than £5,564 a year (in 2012 to 2013) and is not available to the self-employed You may be able to contract out your State Second Pension to a different pension scheme.
The age at which you can claim basic state pension is currently 65 years for men and 60 years for women. This is anticipated to further increase, for both men and women, to 68 years by 2044.
More information can be found on the Pensions Service website.
If you have paid NICs in the UK you should be able to claim the UK State Pension even if you no longer live in the UK. However, the amount will depend on the number of qualifying years of NICs you have made, and the country in which you live.
If you live in an EEA country, you should be able to claim UK state pension which will increase in line with inflation, but if you go to a country outside the EEA your pension will not be inflation-linked unless there is a special agreement between the UK and your country of residence. For more information visit the Pension Service website or contact the International Pension Centre.
As the state pension is relatively low, individuals are encouraged to pay into other pension schemes for additional retirement income. There are several types of schemes:
It may be possible to transfer funds from an existing pension (in the UK or abroad) to a UK pension plan. This may not be profitable, however, particularly if you do not stay in the UK for long. You should contact your pension provider to discuss your options for transfer.
If you encounter problems linked to moving within the EU you could contact the Your Europe Advice service, an EU advice service for the public, currently provided by the legal experts from the European Citizen Action Service. You can post questions online and receive free and personalised advice on life, work and travel in the EU - in your own language and within a week of your request.