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CPA Exam Qualifications for International Students


International students take CPA exam application procedures a little differently than US citizens studying in their own country. Although obtaining an education in the US eliminates any distinction for an international student, difficulty arises when formal education was received outside the US.

Some international students take courses for CPA education requirements in the US in order to possess the same standing as US natives. However, the lack of US citizenship eliminates possible licensing in some states. When last investigated, North Carolina, Alabama, and Hawaii restricted a CPA license to US citizens.

In general, an international student can meet the CPA requirements of any other states. Just remember that several states only issue CPA licenses to individuals who live, work, or study in those jurisdictions. Therefore, international students may need to establish residency in a state where they plan to work if it’s different than their college location.

A fortunate aspect of this situation is that you can take the CPA exam at any available testing center regardless of the state from which you seek licensing. However, the CPA exam is currently offered in only a small number of locations outside the US. But the number of foreign test locations is rising. You can also take the exam in US territories. Therefore, citizens of Asian countries who are studying for the CPA examin their home countries can schedule testing in Guam. This reduces travel time and jet lag to reach the exam location.

Individuals with the Chartered Accountant designation from Australia or Canada are entitled to obtain US CPA licenses without US education. Accountants with designations in other countries that have signed a reciprocal agreement with the International Qualifications Appraisal Board – the organization that qualifies North American CPAs – are also entitled to a fast track of the education requirements for a CPA license in the US. In addition to Australia and Canada, these countries are Hong Kong, Ireland, Mexico and New Zealand. As of 2012, Chartered Accountants from India should expect to meet the education requirements for obtaining a CPA license in the US

Unlicensed international students who received their education outside the US face a different obstacle. Because they lack the requisite semester credit hours at an accredited US educational institution, they cannot sit for the CPA exam unless their transcript from a college outside the US satisfies a foreign credential evaluation. Each state board has its own specifications about acceptable companies to conduct the foreign credential evaluation. Some states recognize only evaluations by a particular company and others permit you to use the services of any company that is a member of the National Association of Credential Evaluation Services (NACES).

Expect a fee of a few hundred dollars and a four to eight week period to obtain the foreign credential evaluation. In order to meet CPA exam qualifications, your foreign education must be equivalent to the typical 150 semester credit hours at a US college. Despite the complications to the application process for international students, obtaining a US CPA license is likely to deliver superior career benefits to CA or similar accountant certifications offered by other countries.

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