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Becoming a CPA in the US

What to know if you're an international student

So you want to cross borders or oceans and become a licensed CPA in the United States? You can do that. The accounting profession is thriving all around the globe, so it's only fitting that the CPA Exam follows suit. Here are just a few important things to know.

You get your CPA license from an individual state.

The AICPA does not license CPAs—it’s up to each state to do it their own way. So first, pick the state you want to be licensed in. Then, contact that state’s Board of Accountancy and CPA society for details on their requirements. They will tell you what coursework you need to have completed before sitting for the CPA Exam. You can find State Board of Accountancy contact information here.

NASBA offers an Advisory Evaluation for students who have studied outside the U.S. or outside their chosen jurisdiction, and are unsure that their education meets board requirements.

You still have to take (and pass) the CPA Exam.

Once your educational qualifications meet the requirements of the state board, you are eligible to sit for the 14-hour Uniform CPA Examination, which is part of the licensure process for the U.S. CPA credential. Since the licensure process for international candidates follows the same general path as CPA Candidates in the United States, you must apply through a participating U.S. state board of accountancy. After passing the exam and meeting necessary experience or other requirements, the State Board of Accountancy would then issue you a CPA license. 

Well, maybe not.

Good news: You may be eligible to take the 4 ½-hour International Qualification Examination (IQEX) rather than the 14-hour Uniform CPA Examination. IQEX exists to facilitate the U.S. CPA certification process for those accounting professionals from other countries whose professional bodies have entered into Mutual Recognition Agreements with the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants (AICPA) and the National Association of State Boards of Accountancy (NASBA). At this time, agreements are in effect with the Canadian Institute of Chartered Accountants (CICA), Institute of Chartered Accountants in Australia (ICAA), CPA Australia (CPAA), Instituto Mexicano De Contadores Publicos (IMCP), the Institute of Chartered Accountants in Ireland (ICAI), and the New Zealand Institute of Chartered Accountants (NZICA). You can find information on the IQEX, including a list of states in which you may be eligible to take the IQEX, here.

If you go this route, in addition to passing the IQEX, you’ll be required to meet all the other requirements of the state board in the state where you would like to become licensed. Each state has slightly different requirements for becoming a CPA. The AICPA does not license CPAs and is a voluntary membership organization. Once you decide in which state you would like to be licensed, you should contact that State Board of Accountancy for further information on the requirements and your eligibility to take the IQEX. 

You can take the exam in more places than ever.

The CPA Exam is administered at Prometric testing centers in select international locations. The list keeps growing, and you can find the most up-to-date list of testing countries by reviewing the International Testing FAQs.

Usually, you need to be a citizen or permanent resident of the country in which the exam is offered to be able to test in that country. In some cases though, you may qualify for regional eligibility--meaning you can take the CPA Exam in a country close to where you hold citizenship. Learn more about international candidate eligibility here.

It’s the same no matter where it is administered.

Even the words on the test are the same since the exam is only offered in English. The primary difference for international candidates is the addition of an informed consent agreement, international testing fees, and additional identification requirements.

Please note: The AICPA does not publish examination review materials or endorse any specific review method or course. To obtain advice on whether to take a review course, which course to take, or which materials to buy, speak to faculty members or colleagues. Such recommendations are not available from the AICPA.

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