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  • Writer's pictureAsim Macci

Why you should contribute to UK national insurance as an expat?

If you want to receive a full UK state pension when you retire then you need to have made enough national insurance contributions to qualify. The pension is based on ‘qualifying years’. A qualifying year is 52 weeks of a paying a contribution into a ‘class’. You will need a minimum 10 years to receive any pension and 35 years for the full pension (A number in between is pro rata).

These contributions are accumulated through different ‘Classes’.

  • Class 1 for UK employees

  • Class 2 for the self-employed

  • Class 3 to make voluntary contributions

As an expat, you are unlikely to be making contributions to these ‘classes’ as you will not be earning employed or self-employed income in the UK (property income does not count). To ensure that you achieve the 35 years of contributions and receive a full basic state pension, you can make voluntary a contribution that add to these ‘years’.

The UK basic state pension is intended to provide an individual with a basic level of income in retirement. It is funded on a ‘pay as you go’ basis. This means that there is no underlying fund from which to provide retirement benefits later and the National Insurance Contributions (NICs) of the current working population are used to pay the State Pensions of those who have reached state pension age.

The purpose of paying voluntary national insurance contributions is to secure entitlement to various UK National Insurance benefits like basic State Pension. It has agreements with Reciprocal Agreement Countries and European Economic Area (EEA) regarding special benefits. If you continue paying UK National Insurance while living abroad, you may protect your entitlement to the following:

  • A full State Pension.

  • Particular state benefits in EEA (European Economic Area) as well as some reciprocal agreement countries. 

  • Particular state benefits and stipends on your return to the UK.

First check any gaps

First stage is to check any gaps that you have in your record. You may find that you have fulfilled enough years already. To check any gaps you will need to complete the below BR19 form with the Department of Work and Pensions (DWP). This will calculate what your pension will look like at our retirement date. 

Download PDF • 93KB

You can easily make up any gaps in your payment record of National Insurance contributions for last six tax years (It is, at the moment possible to go back to 2006).

Making Voluntary National Insurance Contributions as an expat If you live abroad, you can continue paying UK Voluntary National Insurance contributions provided specific conditions are satisfied and build up these years. These payments contribute towards your State Pension and secure particular state benefits, in case you move back to the UK. As mentioned above there are different ‘classes’ that build up part of your national insurance record. There are 4 different classes but for an expat only Class 2 and 3 are relevant.

Any of the following conditions must be fulfilled in case you want to pay Voluntary National Insurance contributions whilst living abroad.

  • You must have spent a constant three-year period in the UK prior to making your payments.

  • Before going abroad, you paid National Insurance contributions for a period of three or more years.

Which class of contribution to pay? Class 2 If you are either self-employed or employed overseas, then you can pay voluntary class 2 National Insurance contributions. For this class, you must meet either of the following conditions:

  • “Ordinarily” self-employed or employed right before going abroad.

  • “Ordinarily” self-employed/employed but got unemployed before going abroad (Unemployed means that you are registered as an unemployed person at the Department for Work and Pensions who is searching for work).

Extra benefits of class 2 contributions:

  • These payments make contribution to your State Pension

  • You enjoy entitlement to the Employment and Support Allowance (formerly known as Incapacity Benefit) and bereavement benefits when you return to the UK.

Current cost of class 2: £3.05 per week

Class 3 Class 3 contributions work for those who are either not entitled to class 2, have gaps in payment record for a tax year, or are unemployed while living abroad.   Compared to class 2 National Insurance contributions, class 3 contributions offer fewer benefits. For instance, you are not able to enjoy the Employment and Support Allowance or bereavement benefits on your return to the UK.

Current cost of class 3: £15.30 a week

Application Procedure to Make Voluntary Contributions while Living Abroad You can use a form CF83 “Application to make National Insurance Contributions abroad” for this purpose. Visit the following link to find the form and related guidelines. After filling out the form, submit it to National Insurance Contributions Office.

Download PDF • 48KB

Making Paying Voluntary Contributions while Living Abroad

You can use either of the following ways to pay voluntary National Insurance contributions.

  • Nominate an agent to make your payments.

  • Make annual payments.

  • Pay through Direct Debit after every 4-5 weeks.

If you intend to appoint an agent to make your payments, then you will be required to provide his/her detailed information while filling form CF83.

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