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This factsheet tells you more about the new Class 3 National Insurance credits – there are also links at the end for more information.
Accompanying a spouse or civil partner on a posting overseas may mean that you are unable to work and pay National Insurance contributions. As a result you might have gaps in your National Insurance contributions record which could affect your future State Pension entitlement. You may be able to fill these gaps with National Insurance credits.
National Insurance contributions can be credited in a wide variety of circumstances where people are unable to work or, in some cases, do not earn enough to pay or be treated as paying contributions. Credits can fill gaps in a person’s National Insurance record so that their future entitlement to certain contributory benefits is protected.
- Class 1 credits can help towards the conditions of entitlement to all contributory benefits
- Class 3 credits count only towards the State Pension
Background: existing (Class 1) credit
On 6 April 2010, the government introduced a National Insurance credit for individuals who accompany their spouse or civil partner on an overseas posting as a member of the armed forces.
These credits are available for periods since 6 April 2010 during which the individual accompanied their spouse or civil partner on postings overseas.
You need to apply for them within the time limits. They can help to protect your entitlement to Jobseeker’s Allowance and Employment and Support Allowance.
For those whose spouse or civil partner died on or after 6 April 2017, a new benefit known as Bereavement Support Payment replaced previous bereavement benefits. National Insurance credits do not give entitlement to the Bereavement Support Payment.
Your application for this credit must be made by the end of the tax year (5 April) following that in which the posting ends and be signed and stamped by the Career Manager. So, for example if a posting ends in June 2017, the credit would need to be applied for before 5 April 2019.
You should apply for the Class 1 credit for accompanied periods since 6 April 2010 if:
- you are still overseas but due to return to the UK
- you have recently returned to the UK and are still within the time limit
This credit can protect your entitlement to contributory benefits as well as the new State Pension.
So what is new?
On 6 April 2016 the government introduced a new Class 3 National Insurance credit for people married to, or in a civil partnership with, a member of the armed forces and who were accompanying them on a posting outside the United Kingdom (England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland).
This new credit is available for tax years from 1975/76 and any subsequent tax years to help fill any gaps in their National Insurance record. These new credits will help maintain their National Insurance record to protect their entitlement to the new State Pension, which will be based on a person’s own National Insurance record.
The new National Insurance credits relate only to the UK National Insurance and UK Social Security contributions.
Who can get the new Class 3 National Insurance credits?
You can get the new National Insurance credits if you:
- were born on or after 6 April 1953 (if a woman) or 6 April 1951 (if a man)
- are married to a member of the armed forces (their spouse) or have registered a civil partnership with a member of the armed forces (their civil partner)
- have been on an accompanied assignment outside the UK at any time since 6 April 1975 and
- make an application to HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC)
At the time of posting, your husband, wife or civil partner must have been insured under the UK National Insurance scheme (meaning had paid, been treated as having paid or been credited with National Insurance contributions).
You can still apply if you are now widowed, divorced or have had your civil partnership dissolved provided you were married or in a civil partnership at the time of the accompanied posting.
When you might not get the new National Insurance credits
In certain locally recruited regiments, such as the Gurkhas, individuals may not have been insured under the UK National Insurance scheme at the time of their postings.
If you were married to, or in a civil partnership with, a member of the armed forces and accompanied them to assignments overseas covering periods before they were insured under the UK National Insurance scheme, you will not be entitled to credits for those periods.
Important points to consider before applying for a National Insurance credit
For accompanied posting since 6 April 2010 you should first consider whether you meet the criteria for the Class 1 credit, before considering applying for the new Class 3 credit. The Class 1 credit will continue to be available after 6 April 2016 and may be more beneficial to you than the new Class 3 credit as it provides entitlement to a wider range of benefits. If you have applied for this credit for an accompanied posting, you do not need to apply for the Class 3 credit for the same posting. You cannot get both.
National Insurance credits are provided on a weekly basis so you might not gain a qualifying year (meaning one that counts for State Pension entitlement) if, for example, the overseas posting ended part way through a tax year. This might also be the case where your period outside the UK includes part years at the start and/or end of the assignment.
Even though you meet the criteria for either the Class 1 or the new Class 3 credit, you may not have gaps in your record for the period of the assignment. This could be because you have already paid enough contributions or received National Insurance credits for the tax year in which you were abroad. If you received certain benefits such as Employment and Support Allowance (formerly Incapacity Benefit and Invalidity Benefit) or Child Benefit for the whole of the accompanied assignment(s) outside the UK you may have received National Insurance credits automatically. So you may not have a gap in your National Insurance contributions record for the period(s) spent overseas.
You may want to first check whether there is a gap in your National Insurance record for the tax year you were on an accompanied assignment outside the UK before applying for these credits.
If you do not have a gap for the tax year in which you were abroad, applying for the credit for that tax year may not improve your State Pension.
A tax year runs from 6 April to the 5 April of the following year.
How to check whether there are gaps in your National Insurance record
If you want to find out whether you have gaps in your record, you can request a State Pension statement. This will give you an estimate of your State Pension based on your own National Insurance record.
The quickest way to find out your State Pension is to use the new online service Check your State Pension. This provides a forecast of how much State Pension you may get at State Pension age. It also shows your National Insurance record, including any gaps on your record, and options for filling gaps and improving your State Pension.
If you are unable to use the online service, you can request a paper State Pension statement, based on your current National Insurance record, by calling the Future Pension Centre on 0800 731 0175 (textphone: 0800 731 0176).
Other ways to fill gaps in your National Insurance record
When credits only cover a part year
You can combine paid National Insurance contributions and credits to make a qualifying year which will count towards the State Pension.
Voluntary National Insurance contributions
In some circumstances, you might be able to pay voluntary National Insurance contributions to fill any gap in your record for those part years when you were not on an accompanied assignment or not entitled to a Class 1 or Class 3 credit. However time limits apply for paying voluntary National Insurance contributions. You can usually only pay for gaps in your National Insurance record from the past 6 years.
You will not need to pay for voluntary National Insurance contributions if your paid and credited National Insurance contributions are sufficient, when combined, to make the year a qualifying year.
Frequently asked questions
Can I get the new National Insurance credits for any period before 6 April 1975?
No. For example, if the accompanied assignment outside the UK began on 1 January 1973 and ended on 30 January 1977, you could only get the new National Insurance credits for the period 6 April 1975 to 30 January 1977.
Can I get the new National Insurance credits if I paid a reduced rate of contribution?
No. You will not be entitled to the new credit if you are a married woman or widow and, at any time since 1977, you chose to pay a reduced rate of National Insurance and you had not cancelled this option whilst you were on the accompanied overseas posting.
What if I don’t know my National Insurance number?
If you need to find your National Insurance number, you can find it on your payslip, P60 or letters about tax, pensions and benefits.
Can I get the new National Insurance credits if I am not a UK citizen?
Nationality or citizenship does not affect your entitlement to the new National Insurance credits.
What if I have never had a National Insurance number?
If you believe that you qualify for the new National Insurance credits and you do not have a National Insurance number, you should still make an application. You should contact HMRC to get an application form, and they will check to see if you qualify for the National Insurance credits. If you do, they will contact the Department for Work and Pensions on your behalf to start a National Insurance number application, so that they can include the credits on your UK National Insurance record.
What if I have been working for an employer while outside the UK?
You may have worked for an employer while you were outside the UK and paid UK National Insurance contributions throughout this time. Therefore, you may not have a gap in your National Insurance contributions record.
If you do not have any gaps in your National insurance record for the period(s) you were overseas, applying for this credit may not improve your State Pension.
What if I have been self-employed while outside the UK?
You may have paid self-employed National Insurance contributions voluntarily while you were outside the UK. Providing you have paid self-employed contributions they will count towards entitlement to the State Pension.
Applying for this credit for the same period in which you paid self-employed contributions may not improve your State Pension.
What if I have already paid voluntary National Insurance contributions to maintain my National Insurance record for the period overseas?
Where you have paid voluntary National Insurance contributions for any week for which you are later awarded these credits, the voluntary contributions can be refunded. You will need to apply for a refund.
Are there time limits for applying for the new Class 3 National Insurance credits?
No, there are no time limits for these new Class 3 National Insurance credits. You can apply at any time but if you delay applying until after you reach State Pension age, any increased State Pension might not be paid for periods before the date of your application. Additionally, you might find it more difficult to provide any supporting documentation, if needed.
Can I apply for multiple assignments?
Yes, if your husband, wife or civil partner moved from one assignment outside the UK to another (for example, from Germany to Cyprus and you accompanied them on each assignment). If you apply online, you can apply for each accompanied assignment outside the UK on the same application form.
Can I still apply for the Class 1 credit for spouses and civil partners of armed forces?
Yes. You should apply for the Class 1 credit for spouses and civil partners of armed forces for periods since 6 April 2010 if you are currently overseas or you recently returned to the UK.
The Class 1 credit counts towards entitlement to Jobseeker’s Allowance, Employment and Support Allowance and the State Pension.
You should check whether you are within the time limits to apply for the Class 1 credit.
Providing you reach State Pension age on or after 6 April 2016, the Class 3 credit can cover you for accompanied assignments:
- between 6 April 1975 and 5 April 2010
- after 6 April 2010 if you did not apply for the Class 1 credit on your return to the UK or the time limit for applying for these credits has expired
How do I apply for the new National Insurance credits?
Where can I get more information?
This factsheet is only a guide and does not cover every circumstance. We have done our best to make sure the factsheet is correct as of April 2018. Some of the information may be oversimplified or may become inaccurate over time, for example because of changes to the law. We recommend that you get independent advice before making financial decisions based on this factsheet.