How Can International Accountants Get Their CPA License?

how-can-international-cpa-candidates-get-their-cpa-licenseBecoming a Certified Public Accountant (CPA) as an international candidate is a bit more challenging than it is for US based candidates.

This process involves various steps, including understanding Mutual Recognition Agreements (MRAs), the International Qualification Examination (IQEX), and the application process through the National Association of State Boards of Accountancy (NASBA).

In this article, we will cover a step-by-step guide to help international accountants navigate the journey of obtaining their CPA in the U.S.

10 Steps to Get Your CPA License as an International Accountant

Understanding CPA Requirements for International Candidates

Each U.S. state has its own Board of Accountancy that sets specific requirements for obtaining a CPA license.

Generally, you need a bachelor’s degree with 150 credit hours of education, work experience, and to pass the Uniform CPA Examination. As an international candidate, you’ll need to thoroughly research and choose a state that aligns with your qualifications and career goals.

Transcript Evaluation

Before applying for the CPA exam, your educational transcripts must be evaluated to ensure they meet the U.S. 150 semester hour requirement.

You can use services like NASBA International Evaluation Services for this purpose. They will evaluate your foreign education and provide a report that you can submit to the state board of accountancy.

Choose a State Board

Choose a state board of accountancy to apply for your CPA license.

Consider factors like residency requirements, educational prerequisites, and work experience conditions. Some states are more lenient than others when it comes to accepting international candidates.

Prepare for the CPA Exam

Once your transcripts are accepted, start preparing for the CPA exam. Invest in a reputable CPA review course tailored to the U.S. CPA exam’s content and structure.

Consistent study, practice exams, and mastering each section’s content are crucial steps in your preparation.

Applyfor the CPA Exam

Submit your CPA exam application to the state board you’ve chosen. This will include your transcript evaluation report, application fees, and any other required documentation.

After your application is approved, you’ll receive a Notice to Schedule (NTS), allowing you to book your exam dates with Prometric, the testing service provider.

Take the CPA Exam

Schedule your exam dates through Prometric’s website. Be mindful of your NTS expiration date and plan your exam schedule accordingly.

The CPA exam comprises four sections:

  • Auditing and Attestation (AUD)
  • Financial Accounting and Reporting (FAR)
  • Regulation (REG)
  • Business Environment and Concepts (BEC)

You need a score of 75 or higher on each section to pass.

GainWork Experience

Most states require CPA candidates to have a certain amount of work experience under the supervision of a licensed CPA.

Start looking for relevant job opportunities in the U.S. or see if your current work experience qualifies.

Apply for CPA Licensure

After passing the CPA exam and fulfilling the work experience requirement, apply for your CPA license through your chosen state board.

This will involve submitting verification of your work experience and possibly taking an ethics exam.

Maintain Your CPA License

Once you obtain your CPA license, ensure you meet your state’s continuing professional education (CPE) requirements to maintain it.

Stay updated on any changes in licensure requirements and participate in professional development opportunities.

Build Your Career

With a U.S. CPA license in hand, explore various career opportunities and networks.

Join professional organizations like the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants (AICPA) to connect with peers, stay informed about industry trends, and access valuable resources.

What is a Mutual Recognition Agreement (MRA)?

A Mutual Recognition Agreement is a pact between the U.S. accounting bodies and those of other countries, allowing for a streamlined process to earn the CPA credential. It acknowledges the similarity in the standard of the accounting profession between the countries and eases the process for foreign accountants to obtain a CPA license.

Which countries have MRA Agreements?

Countries that have MRAs with the U.S. include Australia, Canada, Ireland, Mexico, New Zealand, and Hong Kong. Accountants from these jurisdictions may be eligible to take the IQEX instead of the full Uniform CPA Examination.

What is the International Qualification Examination (IQEX)?

The IQEX is an exam for accountants from foreign jurisdictions who wish to become a CPA in the U.S. This exam tests candidates on their understanding of U.S. accounting principles, tax law, and business environment, ensuring that they meet the necessary standards to practice in the U.S.

How do I apply for NASBA International Evaluation?

To apply for an international evaluation through NASBA (the National Association of State Boards of Accountancy) for the purpose of taking the CPA exam or seeking state licensure, follow these general steps:

  1. Choose the Evaluation Service: NASBA offers the International Evaluation Services (NIES) specifically for this purpose. Make sure that the state board to which you are applying accepts NASBA’s evaluation.
  2. Review Requirements: Visit the NASBA International Evaluation Services website and review the specific requirements for the type of evaluation you need. Different state boards may have different requirements.
  3. Create an Account: You will need to create an account on the NASBA website or through the specific portal provided for international evaluations.
  4. Complete the Application: Fill in the application form, which will include personal information, educational background, and the specifics of the state board for which you are seeking evaluation.
  5. Gather Required Documents: You will need to collect and send in all required documentation, which typically includes official transcripts, proof of degree, and identification. These must be sent in a sealed envelope from the institution or the official source.
  6. Submit and Pay Fees: There is a fee for the evaluation service, which you will need to pay when submitting your application. The fee will vary depending on the complexity and type of evaluation.
  7. Send Official Documents: Mail the required official documents directly to NIES, following the instructions provided. Some countries’ educational institutions can send documents electronically if they are part of the NIES network.
  8. Follow Up: After submitting your application and documentation, you can follow up on the status of your evaluation through your NASBA account. The process can take several weeks, depending on the completeness of your application and the responsiveness of your educational institutions.

Remember to check the NIES website for the most current and detailed instructions, as procedures and requirements can change. If you encounter difficulties or have specific questions, you should contact NASBA’s customer service for assistance.

What is NASBA Experience Verification?

NASBA Experience Verification is a service that assists international candidates in verifying their work experience. Since work experience is a requirement for CPA licensure in many U.S. states, this service is vital for candidates who have gained their experience outside of the U.S.

Which countries are supported by NASBA International Evaluation Services?

NASBA International Evaluation Services caters to applicants from all around the world. Their expertise lies in evaluating international education credentials and converting them to the U.S. education system’s equivalent.

How can an international accountant take the CPA exam?

After your educational credentials are evaluated and deemed equivalent to U.S. standards, you can apply to a state board to take the CPA exam.

You may need to travel to a U.S. jurisdiction or select international locations where the CPA exam is offered.

What Languages is the Uniform CPA Examination Offered in?

The Uniform CPA Examination is only offered in English.

It is crucial for candidates to have a strong command of the English language to comprehend the exam questions and articulate their responses accurately.

What are the CPA Exam Educational Credit Requirements for Foreign applicants?

Foreign applicants are generally required to have completed 150 semester hours of education, including a bachelor’s degree or higher.

Specific course requirements vary by state, so it’s important to check with the state board to which you are applying.

Where are the International Prometric Testing Centers?

Prometric operates testing centers in various countries around the world. International candidates can take the CPA exam in countries such as Japan, Brazil, England, Scotland, Ireland, Germany, and the Middle East.

A full list of locations is available on the Prometric website.


Obtaining a CPA license in the U.S. as an international accountant is an achievable goal with proper guidance and preparation.

By understanding the MRA agreements, leveraging the IQEX, and utilizing NASBA’s services, foreign accountants can navigate the process and open doors to prosperous career opportunities in the U.S.

Frequently Asked Questions

Can I take the U.S. CPA exam in my home country?

Yes, the U.S. CPA exam is offered in various international testing centers. Check the AICPA website or NASBA’s website to see if your country is listed and to find more information on how to apply.

Is work experience gained in my home country valid for CPA licensure?

It depends on the state board’s requirements. Some state boards accept international work experience, while others may not. It’s crucial to verify this information with the specific state board you are applying to.

How long does it take for my international transcripts to be evaluated?

The evaluation process can take several weeks to a few months, depending on the evaluation service and the complexity of your educational background. It’s advisable to start this process well in advance of when you plan to apply for the CPA exam.

Can I apply to any state board for my CPA license as an international candidate?

Yes, but you need to research and choose a state board whose requirements you meet and that accepts international candidates. Some state boards may have more stringent or different requirements for international applicants.

Is it mandatory for international accountants to have an MRA with their country to get a CPA?

No, it is not mandatory. International accountants from countries without an MRA can still apply for CPA licensure, but they will need to go through a comprehensive evaluation of their educational credentials and may have to take the full Uniform CPA Examination.

Can I take the CPA exam in my home country?

It depends on your location. The CPA exam is offered in various international locations through Prometric testing centers. Check Prometric’s website to see if the exam is available in your country.

How long does the NASBA International Evaluation process take?

The evaluation process typically takes several weeks. However, it could be longer depending on the complexity of your educational background and the completeness of the documents submitted.

Is work experience gained outside the U.S. valid for CPA licensure?

It depends on the state board’s requirements. Some state boards accept international work experience, while others may not. It’s crucial to verify this information with the specific state board you are applying to. NASBA’s Experience Verification service can assist in verifying international work experience.

Remember, pursuing a CPA as an international accountant is a significant investment in your future. With the right resources and determination, you can navigate the process and achieve this prestigious designation.