Looking to take the CPA exam internationally?
No matter where you live, the CPA exam can be a great career move as multinational companies across the globe need US CPAs.
But, as an international CPA applicant, there are a number of extra hurdles to jump, rules to ponder, and bureaucracies to duel.?
To be eligible to take the CPA exam, you need to meet either a 120 credit hour or 150 credit hour requirement. A year of full-time study is typically considered 30 credit hours.
In the American system, you meet the 120 hour requirement by graduating from your four year bachelor's degree. You meet the 150 hour requirement by adding a one year graduate degree, such as a master's degree or an MBA. It's pretty straightforward.
Outside of the USA, bachelor's degrees are often three years, not four. Do you have a three year bachelor’s degree? On its own, it's not enough.
With four years of full-time study completed, you have some states where you can apply. With five years of full-time study completed, you have more options. In addition, some states require a certain number of business and accounting subjects that need to be completed as part of your education.
To have your degree accepted by the state board of accountancy, you will need to have it verified. To verify your degree, you will submit your transcripts to a credential evaluation service. This is to verify how many credit hours your study is worth.
One frustrating thing about credential evaluation services is that different state boards of accountancy maintain different lists of which services they will accept. Before you spend money on credential evaluation, be sure that the credential evaluation service you use is accepted by the state where you wish to apply.
Note: the education requirement we are discussing here is for the CPA exam. The requirement for a CPA license can be higher. States that let you sit the exam with 120 hours will still require 150 hours for a license.
The only jurisdiction that doesn't require 150 hours for a license is the US Virgin Islands: this board of accountancy only licenses residents.
Despite the fact that you may not have any connection to any particular US state, you still need to apply to a state board of accountancy to get the “authorization to test” that permits you to take the CPA exam.
The CPA exam is exactly the same, no matter the state or testing location. You're also under no obligation to take the exam in the state you apply.
That means you can basically just pick and choose the one whose rules treat you most favorably. This is especially true if you don't need a CPA license to practice in any particular state.
The first thing to note here is that some states just won't take you. Some require that you reside in the state, that you are a US citizen, or that you have a social security number, or all of those things.
You're probably quick to notice that not too many states are concerned with your residency or citizenship – but almost all want a social security number. In practice, while most state boards will ask you for this on the application form, they also comprehend that non-American applicants often don't have one. You can ask to have this requirement waived.
When looking up these requirements, be sure that you are looking at the exam requirement rather than the license requirement. The requirement for licensure can be higher than that for the exam.
The CPA exam is not just available in the USA. It can also be taken at Prometric testing locations in Japan, Brazil, Bahrain, Kuwait, Lebanon, or the United Arab Emirates.
This is the same CPA exam that is administered inside the USA.
Sitting for the exam outside the USA has a slightly higher testing fee. You will also need to complete an “informed consent agreement”.
These international exams are only open to citizens or long-term residents of the testing location, and to US citizens or permanent residents.
Additionally, citizens or long-term residents of Argentina, Bolivia, Chile, Colombia, Ecuador, French Guiana, Guyana, Paraguay, Peru, Suriname, Uruguay and Venezuala may sit the exam in Brazil. Citizens or long term residents of Bahrain, Egypt, India, Jordan, Kuwait, Lebanon, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, UAE or Yemen may sit the exam in any of the Middle East countries.
If you are not from one of these countries, you will need to come to the USA to take this exam.
Not every state board of accountancy participates in the international program. If you want to sit the exam outside the USA then you will need to apply to a state other than Alabama, California, Delaware, Idaho, Kentucky, Mississippi, New Jersey or North Carolina.
Colorado, Delaware and Michigan are popular choices for international candidates. Each of these states allows you to sit the CPA exam with four years of full time study.
Some non-US licensed accountants have a shorter path to US CPA qualification, the International Qualification Exam, or IQEX.
This is a shorter exam than the CPA Exam, focusing on the ways that accounting and auditing practices in the USA differ from those of other countries. The idea here is that candidates for this exam have already demonstrated their competence in areas of accounting that are similar internationally.
The IQEX exam contains only one section, unlike the CPA exam's four. It covers similar material to the REG section of the CPA exam. It is only available during a 3 week window in October or November.
This exam is only available to accountants already licensed by one of the following jurisdictions. Most states will accept the IQEX examination, but some may also ask that other conditions are met.
For instance, some states will accept the IQEX from the Canadian Institute of Chartered Accountants but not from the New Zealand Institute of Chartered Accountants.
Click your jurisdiction to see which states you can apply to for licensure:
For more information on IQEX, visit the National Association of State Boards of Accountancy.
There's a lot to organize. Give yourself at least 6 months.
You'll need your official academic transcripts, you'll need to use a credential evaluation service, and then you'll need to go through the same process of getting your Authorization to Test and Notice to Schedule that American candidates do. For more information on this, view our “Scheduling the CPA” guide!
On top of all of that, you'll probably have to arrange travel to the testing location, and perhaps a visa as well.
The more you can organize well ahead of sitting an exam section, the less you will need to attend to in those crucial final weeks before the exam. It's also worth giving yourself a little more time than you need, in case of delays or errors in any part of the process.
Best of luck!