CPA License Reciprocity by State

Complete Guide to Certified Public Accountant License Reciprocity between States & Countries

cpa-license-reciprocity-by-stateAs a CPA, expanding your professional horizons can lead to exciting opportunities, and one aspect that can significantly facilitate this growth is understanding and utilizing CPA license reciprocity.

CPA license reciprocity allows Certified Public Accountants to practice in different jurisdictions without having to undergo the entire certification process again.

This article will explore the facets of CPA license reciprocity, its benefits, challenges, and how to navigate it successfully.

What is CPA License Reciprocity?

CPA license reciprocity is a mutual agreement between different state boards of accountancy in the United States, and sometimes with international accounting bodies, allowing CPAs to practice outside their original licensing jurisdiction.

This is particularly beneficial for professionals who wish to relocate, work in multiple states, or expand their practice internationally. The primary aim of reciprocity is to promote mobility and flexibility within the accounting profession, ensuring that qualified CPAs can serve diverse client needs across borders.

Reciprocity Eligibility and Requirements

To be eligible for CPA license reciprocity, a CPA generally needs to have an active and good standing license from their home jurisdiction. However, requirements can vary significantly between different states and countries.

Commonly, the CPA will need to prove that they have met the licensing requirements that are substantially equivalent to those of the jurisdiction they wish to practice in. This often involves submitting transcripts, work experience documentation, and sometimes, taking additional exams or courses.

Substantial Equivalency and NASBA’s Role

The concept of substantial equivalency plays a crucial role in CPA license reciprocity. It implies that the educational, examination, and experience requirements of the CPA’s home jurisdiction are comparable to those of the jurisdiction they wish to practice in.

The National Association of State Boards of Accountancy (NASBA) facilitates this process through its CPA Mobility Tool, which provides detailed information on the CPA license reciprocity requirements for each state.

Benefits of CPA License Reciprocity

Embracing CPA license reciprocity opens doors to a plethora of opportunities. It enables CPAs to diversify their practice, serve clients in different regions, and brings the potential for professional growth and increased income.

Moreover, it fosters a dynamic and interconnected accounting profession, promoting knowledge exchange and best practices across borders.

How to apply for a reciprocal CPA license?

The process of applying for a reciprocal CPA (Certified Public Accountant) license, also known as CPA licensure by reciprocity, allows a CPA who is licensed in one jurisdiction to become licensed in another without having to take the CPA exam again.

This is based on the belief that the CPA has already demonstrated their knowledge and competence by meeting the licensing requirements in their home jurisdiction.

The specific steps and requirements for obtaining a reciprocal CPA license can vary by state. However, here’s a general outline of the process that one might follow:

1. Confirm Eligibility:

Ensure that you hold a valid CPA license from a jurisdiction that has substantially equivalent licensure requirements to those of the state where you’re seeking reciprocity. The National Association of State Boards of Accountancy (NASBA) provides information on substantial equivalency through its National Qualification Appraisal Service (NQAS).

2. Understand State Requirements:

Research the state board of accountancy for the state where you want to be licensed to understand their specific requirements. Requirements may include a certain amount of work experience, ethics exams, or continuing professional education (CPE).

3. Submit an Application:

Complete the application for licensure by reciprocity provided by the state board of accountancy where you are seeking the reciprocal license. Be thorough and provide all requested information.

4. Provide Verification of Licensure:

You will typically need to submit verification of your current CPA license. Some states require that this verification comes directly from the state board that issued your original license.

5. Pass the Ethics Exam (if applicable):

Some states require you to pass an ethics exam, even if you’ve already passed one in another jurisdiction. This is often the AICPA’s Professional Ethics Exam for CPAs.

6. Submit Transcripts (if required):

Even though you are already licensed, some states may request official college transcripts as part of the reciprocity application process.

7. Fulfill Experience Requirements:

Provide proof of any required work experience. Some states require a certain amount of experience within a specific timeframe, and under certain conditions.

8. Pay Required Fees:

There will be fees associated with the application for a reciprocal license. Make sure you understand all the fees involved and the acceptable forms of payment.

9. Continuing Professional Education (CPE):

Provide documentation of completed CPE if required by the state board.

10. Background Check:

Some states may require a background check, including fingerprinting, as part of the application process.

11. Stay Informed:

Keep up with any communications from the state board regarding your application. They may request additional information or clarification.

12. Receive Your License:

Once your application is approved and all requirements are satisfied, you will receive your reciprocal license from the state board.

Always check the state board’s website or contact them directly for the most current and detailed information, as reciprocity rules can change. It’s also beneficial to keep track of any continuing education and experience requirements to maintain the license once it is granted. Additionally, NASBA’s Accountancy Licensing Library (ALL) can be a valuable resource for up-to-date licensing information.

How much does a reciprocal CPA license cost?

The cost of obtaining a reciprocal CPA license can vary widely depending on the state board to which you are applying. Each state sets its own fees for licensure, and these can change over time. Here are some of the potential costs that you might encounter during the process:

Application Fees

Most states charge an application fee for processing a reciprocal CPA license. This fee can range anywhere from $50 to over $300.

Licensure Fees

In addition to the application fee, there may be a separate licensure fee that covers the issuance of the CPA certificate and license. This can also vary significantly by state.

Ethics Exam Fees

If the state requires you to take an ethics exam, there may be a fee associated with this exam. The AICPA ethics exam, for example, can cost around $150 to $200.

Transcript Fees

If you need to submit official transcripts, there may be a fee from your educational institution for sending these documents.

Background Check Fees

A fee for a background check may be required. This can include fingerprinting costs, which vary by location but could be around $50 to $100.

Verification of Licensure Fees

Some states require that you have your original state board of accountancy send verification of your license directly. There may be a fee for this service, usually around $25 to $50.

Continuing Professional Education (CPE) Fees

If you need to complete additional CPE to meet the reciprocity requirements, there will be costs associated with these courses. These can vary widely depending on the course provider and format.

Renewal Fees

While not part of the initial reciprocal licensure cost, be aware that there will be ongoing renewal fees to maintain your CPA license in the new state, which typically occur on an annual or biennial basis.

Because of these variables, it’s challenging to provide a one-size-fits-all answer to how much a reciprocal CPA license costs. As a rough estimate, you might expect to pay anywhere from a few hundred to over a thousand dollars when considering all possible fees. However, to get an accurate figure, you will need to check the specific fees listed by the state board of accountancy to which you are applying.

Challenges and Considerations

While CPA license reciprocity brings numerous benefits, it also comes with its set of challenges. Navigating the varied requirements of different jurisdictions can be complex, and it may require additional effort, time, and possibly financial investment.

CPAs need to diligently research and understand the specific requirements of the jurisdiction they wish to practice in and plan accordingly.

Preparing for Reciprocity

Preparation is key when pursuing CPA license reciprocity. Start by identifying the jurisdictions you are interested in and researching their specific requirements. Utilize resources such as NASBA’s CPA Mobility Tool and reach out to the relevant state boards of accountancy for guidance.

Additionally, consider seeking advice from mentors or colleagues who have successfully navigated CPA license reciprocity.

Maintaining Multiple CPA Licenses

If you obtain a CPA license in another jurisdiction through reciprocity, it’s important to maintain both your original and new licenses. This typically involves fulfilling the continuing professional education (CPE) requirements and paying the renewal fees for each jurisdiction.

Staying organized and keeping track of these requirements ensures that you remain in good standing and can continue to practice seamlessly.

International Reciprocity

CPA license reciprocity is not limited to the United States. Many international accounting bodies have mutual recognition agreements with U.S. state boards, allowing for easier mobility for CPAs on a global scale.

Understanding these agreements and the specific requirements for international practice is essential for CPAs looking to expand their reach beyond the United States.


CPA license reciprocity is a valuable tool for Certified Public Accountants aiming to broaden their professional horizons. While it does come with its complexities, proper preparation, and understanding of the requirements can lead to exciting opportunities and professional growth.

Embracing this aspect of the accounting profession fosters a global, dynamic, and interconnected community of financial experts.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is CPA license reciprocity?

CPA license reciprocity is an agreement between different accounting jurisdictions, allowing CPAs to practice outside their original licensing area without undergoing the entire certification process again.

How do I determine if I am eligible for CPA license reciprocity?

Eligibility typically requires having an active CPA license in good standing and meeting substantially equivalent licensing requirements of the jurisdiction you wish to practice in.

What is substantial equivalency in CPA license reciprocity?

Substantial equivalency means that the educational, examination, and experience requirements of one jurisdiction are comparable to those of another, facilitating easier license transferability.

Are there resources available to help navigate CPA license reciprocity?

Yes, NASBA provides a CPA Mobility Tool, and you can also reach out to the state boards of accountancy for the specific jurisdictions you are interested in for guidance and information.