Can I make voluntary National Insurance Contributions whilst living abroad?

Planning your life after work is imperative to your long term financial security. When working/living abroad you have many different ways to set yourself up for when you retire. In this article we will discuss the details of voluntary national insurance and how this could help your future.

Eamon Shahir
Eamon Shahir
Feb 28, 2024

This article will refer to both Class 2 and Class 3 voluntary contributions. For those living abroad it is important to note you would be paying Class 2 voluntary NIC.

What is Voluntary National Insurance?

Voluntary NIC is a tool usually used by people to secure their ability to receive the state pension for when they reach the relative state pension age. You need 35 qualifying years to receive the state pension. You fill gaps in your NIC record from the previous 6 tax years by making voluntary NIC.

  • Class 3 contributions are able to be paid to fill in gaps in your national insurance record.
  • Class 2 contributions are the equivalent for people who are self-employed.

Should You Make Voluntary Contributions?

Everyone's individual circumstance will call upon different tools to reach their desired level of financial security, therefore it is important to consider all the relevant factors.

Here are some key factors to consider:


  • Can help you qualify for the state pension.
  • Provide a case for you to claim bereavement support in the case of someone dying that is close to you.
  • This depends on many factors but voluntary NIC will help in your eligibility.


  • If your health is at risk or you have a short life expectancy you may not see the benefit of early contributions as you may not live to get the state pension.
  • You could use contributions from your spouse/civil partner to improve your state pension without voluntary contributions.
  • You would pay more tax to gain a higher state pensions.

To further aid in your decision it could be worth finding out your current state pension forecast, this will tell you how much you can get, when you can receive it, and what you can do in the interim to increase it. You can access this via the the state pension forecast here.

Am I Eligible for Voluntary NIC?

Do you meet the requirements?

To pay Class 2 or Class 3 voluntary NIC:

  • Previously lived in the UK for 3 years in a row.
  • Paid at least 3 years of NIC.

To Pay Class 2 voluntary NIC these must also be true:

  • Worked in the UK immediately before leaving.
  • You’re currently working abroad (or worked whilst you were abroad).

You may be able to pay voluntary Class 2 or voluntary Class 3 National Insurance contributions if you have either:

  • Previously lived in an EU country, Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway, Switzerland, or Turkey for 3 years in a row.
  • Paid 3 years of social security contributions in an EU country, Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway, Switzerland, or Turkey.

You must also have either:

  • Paid Class 1 NIC.
  • Paid, or have had Class 2 NIC treated as paid.

How to Pay Voluntary NIC?

You can apply by post by filling out the CF38 form or you can apply to pay online.


  • Full name.
  • Date of birth.
  • National Insurance number.
  • Your address in the UK if applicable.
  • Your address abroad if applicable.
  • The date that you left the UK.
  • Details of your employment before you left the UK.
  • How long you lived or plan to live abroad if known.
  • Details of your employment or self-employment abroad if applicable.
  • Details of any government benefit you were receiving or claiming if applicable.

If you are applying online, you will need a phone with a working camera and also one of the following types of photo ID:

  • UK photocard driving licence.
  • UK passport.
  • Non-UK passport with a biometric chip.
  • UK biometric residence permit (BRP).
  • UK biometric residence card (also called a BRC).
  • UK Frontier Worker permit (FWP).

Payment Methods:

  • Direct Debit.
  • Approve payment through your online bank account.
  • Pay by Cheque through the post.
  • Online/Telephone bank transfer.
  • Pay at the bank via cash/cheque.

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Final Verdict

This article will have outlined the details surrounding voluntary national insurance contributions and given you sufficient information to help you decide whether to use this as a means to secure your future!


  • How much is the UK State Pension?
    Full rate available is £203.85 per week, however, the amount you get is based on the number of qualifying years of national insurance you have paid.

  • How many qualifying years do I need for the state pension?
    You require 35 qualifying years to claim the full state pension, however, you only need 10 qualifying years to claim any state pension.

  • Can I buy back national insurance years?
    You can buy back (fill in gaps) for insurance years for the past 6 tax years. Sometimes you can apply for more. This will contribute to your qualifying years for claiming the state pension.

  • Can I buy back state pension years?
    This would be the same as buying back (filling gaps) for national insurance years. You are normally able to fill gaps for the past 6 tax years, however, in some cases you can apply to fill more.

Class 2 Voluntary Contributions

If you do not pay voluntary NIC through self-assessment, you would pay Class 2 NIC. You would not be paying through self-assessment if:

  • An examiner, moderator, invigilator, or person who set exam questions.
  • Running a business involving land or property.
  • A minister of religion who does not receive a salary or stipend.
  • Living abroad and paying voluntary Class 2 contributions.
  • A person who makes investments - but not as a business and without getting a fee or commission.
  • A non-UK resident who’s self-employed in the UK.
  • Working abroad.

Class 3 Voluntary Contributions

People who are employed or unemployed in the UK will be asked to pay Class 3 voluntary NIC at their discretion.

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