National Insurance Voluntary Contributions

London famous double-decker bus driving along Bishopsgate in London.

Many UK expatriates and non-UK nationals who worked in the UK are unaware that they remain eligible for a full UK state pension, even after they move overseas. The UK state pension is currently £185.15 a week which equates to £9,628.50 per year. While it isn’t going to afford you a life of luxury in retirement, it is still a benefit worth securing as part of a wider retirement plan, if you are eligible.

State Pension qualifying years

To receive the maximum UK state pension an individual needs 35 years of qualifying contributions. If you have less than 35 years and more than 10 (which is the minimum to qualify) then you will receive a pension proportional to the number of years you paid in.
What many people don’t realise is that you can continue to pay voluntary contributions when you move abroad in order to attain your 35 qualifying years. In addition, it is possible to top up a certain number of years . That means that, even if you were unaware of voluntary contributions and have been living abroad for some time, you could still be able to secure the full UK state pension by catching up on years you have missed.

How to check your UK National Insurance record

If you are unsure how many years of NI contributions you have, it’s very easy to check. You’ll need to register for Government Gateway in order to prove your identity (if you haven’t already) and then you can access your NI record and state pension forecast online at this link. You’ll find a detailed yearly breakdown showing exactly how many qualifying years you have accumulated and the years where there are payment gaps that you might want to make voluntary contributions for.

Who can make voluntary contributions while overseas

There are four different classes of national insurance contributions. Of those only Class 2 and 3 relate to voluntary contributions.
Class 2 contributions are for those people living and working abroad either as employed or self-employed and if they satisfy either of the following conditions:

  1. (a) You’ve lived in the UK for a continuous 3-year period at any time before the period for which National Insurance contributions are to be paid, or
    (b) Before going abroad, you paid National Insurance:
    (i) from April 1975 to give 3 qualifying years, or
    (ii) from April 1975 to give 2 qualifying years and paid 52 National Insurance contributions (of any Class) before 6 April 1975, or
    (iii) from April 1975 to give 1 qualifying year and paid 104 National Insurance contributions (of any Class) before 6 April 1975, or
    (iv) 156 National Insurance contributions (of any Class) before 6 April 1975
    this will be checked when you ask to pay Class 2 National Insurance contributions, and
  2. In addition to meeting condition 1(a) or 1(b), you must also, immediately before going abroad, have been ordinarily an employed or self-employed earner in the UK.

Class 2 voluntary National Insurance contributions for 2022/23 are £3.15 per week (£163.80 p.a.).
Class 3 voluntary National Insurance contributions for 2022/23 are £15.85 per week (£824.20 p.a.) and are for those people living abroad but NOT working “but only if at some point you’ve lived in the UK for at least 3 years in a row or paid at least 3 years of contributions.”

Back paying UK National Insurance contributions

In most cases, if you want to pay voluntary contributions you must do so within six years of the year in question. The deadline each year is 5th April, so you currently have until 5th April 2023 to make up any gap for the tax year 2016-17. However, there are also exceptions to this, specifically, men born after 5th April 1951 and women born after 5th April 1953 can make up gaps that date back to 6th April 2006, subject to eligibility. But take note, this only applies until 5th April 2025.

How do you make payments

If you want to apply to pay voluntary Class 2 National Insurance contributions while you’re abroad, you will need to complete the application form CF83 and on provide details of:

  • your employments in UK and abroad
  • self-employments in UK and abroad
  • periods of registered unemployment during the past 3 years the date you gave up work or will be giving up work before going abroad

We can work with you to check out your status and assess whether it makes financial sense to back pay missed years to complete the 35 qualifying years required to receive a full UK state pension. Then we can advise on the necessary submission to HMRC and help make the right voluntary contributions.

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