To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, what the procedure is for foreign nationals wishing to apply for a national insurance number; for what reasons her Department has not made provision for virtual interviews for foreign nationals wishing to apply for a national insurance number during the covid-19 outbreak; whether she plans for such virtual interviews to begin in lieu of physical interviews and, if so, on what date; and what assessment she has made of trends in the number of foreign nationals being turned down for work as a result of employers’ concerns about making a mistake on a potential employee’s right to work due to their not being in possession of a national insurance number.
1 September 2020
When applying for a National Insurance Number (NINo), all applicants are required to have their identity verified. For those applicants whose identity has already been verified by another UK Government Department, primarily Home Office, their applications are dealt with by post. For those who have not had their identity verified, primarily EU/EEA nationals, the current process requires them to attend a face to face interview with DWP to verify their identity.
Due to COVID-19, the face to face interview process was suspended from 17th March 2020. This enabled us to redeploy a large number of staff to help process the substantial number of benefit claims received during this period.
It is not possible, due to the requirement to examine ID documents, to offer a virtual service. However, we are working on a digital solution that, once in place, will enable us to restart the process. Our current plan is for that to be in place by the end of September 2020.
Employers are required to conduct mandatory Right to Work checks on all prospective employees. Having a NINo is not part of these checks, and the possession of a NINo does not prove that an individual has a right to work. Indeed, an individual can apply for a job and take up employment without a NINo. I have included a link to the guidance on Right to Work checks that is provided to employers by the Home Office.
The Department does not hold information on the number of foreign nationals who may have been turned down for work as a result of not having a NINo.