Here is my recent (January 2007) experience in apply for my National Insurance Number after receiving my Civil Partnership FLR Visa and getting a job. The process started by calling the NIN Application Line (0845 600 0643). The asked some basic questions to ensure that I was eligible for a NIN. The person I was talking to was obviously filling out some sort of electronic form. When it got to how I had the right to work in the UK, I indicated that it was because of my FLR for a Civil Partnership. This seemed to confuse the lady on the phone. She didn’t have a good understanding of immigration or the fact that civil partnerships were legal in the UK. Finally I just stated that in other cases I simply just say marriage. She finally selected the right “option” on the form and proceeded to book my appointment. It is important to note that they are going to be looking for four pieces of information, depending on your situation and you have essentially “committed” to bringing these things to the interview. For me they were my passport (proof of identity/right to work), my council tax bill (proof of address) and my work contract (proof of employment). There are several options in each category. Either way, make sure you bring what you said, otherwise it might make things more difficult. She booked me in, about a week later, at a nearby jobs centre.
I received a letter in the mail that indicated my appointment time, the location, and what I had committed to bring. I suggest brining this with you, because it will make it easier to find you reservation when you arrive at the centre.
I showed up to my local jobs centre a few minutes ahead of time (the letter indicated that if I were late, I may not be seen, like most good government letters). There was a large board with the printout of all the appointments throughout the day. This centre had two receptions. I couldn’t find my name on the board. I looked and looked. Finally I went to the first reception (the funny thing was there was Reception 1 and Reception 3, but no Reception 2) and showed my form. She found me on her list and grabbed a sheet of paper and said “here we go” and had me take a seat.
It took about 10 minutes for my name to be called and was walked over by a gentleman to a desk where he had a huge multi-page, multi-part form and the sheet that receptionist had found. He started through a bit of a spiel about how he was to fill out the form, that it would take about 15-20 minutes with me and then would be reviewed by a co-worker which would take 10-15 minutes and then my documentation would be returned back to me. Then it would take up to 6 weeks to receive the NIN, though it normally takes about 3 weeks. He said “I understand you have brought some documentation for me today.”
At that point he asked for each of the things that I had promised to bring, surveyed them briefly and then asked “do you have a bank account in the UK?” I said yes, which I did, and he said “with what Bank?” and I said “HSBC”. At that the conversation ended and then he started filling out the form.
As he got to certain sections he would ask me a question, like when did I first arrive in the UK, which was rather difficult for me, and he indicated that it was often difficult for a lot of people. He said it was even for 5 minutes in the UK that we needed to record. We dug through my passport and found the first Heathrow stamp, which was me actually continuing on to Ireland. We agreed that was the first date which he wrote down. We also figured when I had been here for this time and if I had left for greater then 30 days since arriving. We also went through information about my partner (though I was not required to provide any proof) and he asked if I had brought any pay stubs. I hadn’t because I hadn’t been asked to, which he seemed fine with.
After a while he finished the form (as a side note, the form was about twice as long as the SET-M, which I found quite funny, that it was less paperwork to live in the country then to get credit for paying taxes). He ran off to copy my documentation. He said for me to look over the form and make sure it was correct. I did and everything was fine, I also took a look at the “appointment paper”. I noticed a few things, one that the documents I said I would bring were specifically on there again, plus a whole summary of the conversation I had with the intake call centre. Finally I noticed that the call centre I called was some sort of out sourced call centre (based on the name of the company and address of where the appointment form came from).
When he came back, he stamped each copy with a read stamp and make me sign and date that they were accurate copies of the documents I had provided. He also made me sign my employment contract (it had been my copy which I had not signed or returned because it was for my files). He said that one time, he sent one of these on without the employment contract signed and some guy up the line rejected it because “it wasn’t official because the employee hadn’t signed”. We had a bit of a life about government process at which point he told me about the bank question. They ask the question in part to prove identity. They assume that if you have opened a bank account that someone has looked into your identity. He stated the problem is because of the data protection act, they cannot take any of the personal information or make copies of any bank statements, so the basically take your word for it.
Then he bundled up all my stuff and told me to have a seat while a co-worker checked through the documents. I saw there was a back office with the door shut and every once in a while the guy would come out and hand back paperwork to people. Instead of taking 15 minutes to review my paperwork, it took about 35 minutes. During that time, he only returned a grand total of 4 packets to people, which meant that he was only reviewing at about twice the pace of the people doing the interviews and filling out the form.
I was given back my originals and a sheet of paper that is my receipt. I will now wait my three to six weeks to receive my number.