The US dollar still being among the world’s strongest currencies and many US-based businesses, including the Big Four accounting firms, have offices located in many countries across the world. This makes the aspect of attaining a CPA and earning a US salary, or even just a much higher salary than average, is a very attractive aspect to international students. However, the possibility of going to the US to acquire their CPA is rarely financially or logistically feasible, especially considering the global recession and travel restrictions caused by Covid-19. Fortunately, there are other ways that an international student can get their CPA without leaving their home country.

What is a Mutual Recognition Agreement (MRA)?

This is probably the ‘easiest’ way for an international student to practice in the US or at a US-based firm. However, this only applies to qualified accountants. An MRA is an agreement made between the NASBA/AICPA International Qualifications Appraisal Board (IQAB) and the accounting boards of certain countries that allows them to practice in the US without completely needing to re-credential. This means that based on the state, the applicant may be able to work there, provided that they meet the requirements.

These requirements include:

  • Apply to the NASBA International Evaluation Services (NIES) – $225
  • Satisfying the credit requirements of both countries/ the state
  • Satisfying the state’s course requirements
  • Meeting the work experience requirement of both countries/ the state
  • Apply under foreign reciprocity – fees vary per state
  • Providing a copy of your ID
  • Write the International Qualification Examination (IQEX) – $835.00
  • Taking an AICPA Ethics Exam (where required) – fee varies by state

Important to note:

  • There are certain states that do not recognize the MRA, so you will need to verify this with the stat’s accountancy board before you apply to that specific state
  • Most fees are non-refundable

Which countries have MRA Agreements?

These are the accounting bodies that currently have MRAs with IQAB (as listed on the NASBA site in November 2021):

  • Chartered Accountants Australia and New Zealand (CAANZ)
  • Chartered Accountants Ireland (CAI)
  • CPA Australia
  • CPA Canada (CPAC)
  • Hong Kong Institute of Certified Public Accountants (HKICPA)
  • Instituto Mexicano de Contadores Publicos (IMCP)
  • Institute of Chartered Accountants of Scotland (ICAS)
  • South African Institute of Chartered Accountants

Copies of the MRAs for each country can be found here, as can many other relevant documents for CPA applicants.

What is the International Qualification Examination (IQEX)? 

The IQEX examination can be taken by those who have acquired an accounting degree from a non-US professional public accounting association that is recognized by the U.S. International Qualifications Appraisal Board (IQAB.) These are the above-mentioned institutions that form part of the NASBA MRA. Unfortunately, they are the only recognized international licenses. All other foreign license holders will need to sit the full CPA exam. The requirements for this are listed below. Additionally, it is important to note that the IQEX exam is not a substitute for the Uniform CPA Exam. Rather, it offers non-US qualified accountants the opportunity to take just one IQEX exam instead of the four-part CPA exam. If passed, you will be able to apply to the state for your CPA license.

At $835, it is only slightly cheaper than the full CPA exam. However, the preparation required is far less intensive than for all four of the CPA parts, as it is just the Regulations (REG) section of the Uniform CPA Exam. If you fail, you will need to pay a re-application fee.

Most state boards accept the IQEX exam results, with the exception of Connecticut, North Carolina, Mississippi (only Canada CPAC), Puerto Rico, Hawaii, Guam, Alaska, and Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands (CNMI.)

For further information, see the official IQEX Handbook.

What languages is the IQEX available in?

The examination is only available in English.

When can I take the IQEX Exam?

The IQEX exam is offered during the first two months of each calendar quarter.

Where can I take the IQEX Exam?

You can take the exam at any of the authorized Prometric test centers. Qualified applicants from countries that do not have a testing center may take one in nearest country that does offer them.

How do I apply for NASBA International Evaluation?

Applying for a NASBA International Evaluation will cost you $250. The requirements for a NASBA International Evaluation differ by country and will include variations of the following (verbatim as per the NASBA site):

  • Application fee
  • Copy of passport or government issued identification (You can upload the ID to your NIES user account instead of mailing or emailing).
  • NIES will not accept transfer study on another transcript.
  • NIES requires documentation for each year of international post-secondary education.
  • Please note that completion of a higher degree is not acceptable as proof of prior study.
  • If your school requires a request from our office to issue the necessary documentation, please fill out and submit the Transcript Request Form.
  • Complete set of official English translations for non-English documents
  • Please Note: all mail must be addressed to NASBA International Evaluation Services. Failure to add International Evaluation Services to the address will result in the delay of your application being processed.
  • Transcripts and degree certificates (diplomas) may be submitted electronically provided they are official. Some schools do not offer this service. Contact your Registrar or academic record’s office for additional information. If an email address is required for electronic delivery, use etranscriptnies@nasba.org. Electronically delivered transcripts must be submitted directly from the institution(s).

The requirements per country can be found here. NASBA will only accept official documents from the issuing institution on condition that they were sent unopened through the postal service. This means that you cannot deliver the documents to the NASBA offices either yourself or through a courier.

What is NASBA Experience Verification?

Once you have passed your CPA exam, the state may require that you receive NABSA Experience Verification before they issue your CPA license. This process costs $500 for domestic verification and $700 for international experience verification. The experience requirements vary for each state, so be sure to clarify how much experience your chosen state demands before you apply for the exam there. Each state usually requires 1 – 2 years of work experience, with a year measured as 2,000 hours. The period in which this needs to take place is also usually specified.

State Boards also vary as to how many credits are required to sit the exam. Some only require 120 hours, while most stipulate the full 150 credit hours. However, you will need to acquire 150 credits before your license will actually be issued to you.

Which countries are supported by NASBA International Evaluation Services?

This is a list of the states that are supported by NASBA International Evaluation Services:

  • Alabama
  • Alaska
  • Arizona
  • Arkansas
  • California
  • Iowa
  • Nevada
  • Maine
  • New York
  • Vermont
  • District of Columbia
  • Maryland
  • North Carolina
  • Virgin Islands
  • Florida
  • Massachusetts
  • North Dakota
  • Virginia
  • South Carolina
  • CNMI
  • Kansas
  • New Hampshire
  • South Dakota
  • Colorado
  • Kentucky
  • Georgia
  • Michigan
  • Ohio
  • Washington
  • Guam
  • Hawaii
  • Idaho
  • Illinois
  • Indiana
  • Mississippi
  • Missouri
  • New Jersey
  • Tennessee
  • Connecticut
  • Louisiana
  • New Mexico
  • Utah
  • Delaware
  • Montana
  • Nebraska
  • Oregon
  • Pennsylvania
  • Puerto Rico
  • Rhode Island
  • Minnesota
  • Oklahoma
  • West Virginia
  • Wyoming

How can an international accountant take the CPA exam?

The application process for internationally CPA applicants who would like to take the Uniform CPA Examination is almost the same as for US applicants. The only difference is that you will need to establish your eligibility through a jurisdiction participating in the international administration of the Exam. These jurisdictions each have Prometric testing stations that provide computer-based standardized testing to the examinee. The jurisdictions and the associated countries eligible in each jurisdiction have been outlined below.  

What languages is the Uniform CPA Examination in?

The examination is only available in English. This is because it is the same standardized computer-based test that applicants take in the US.

What are the CPA exam credit requirements for foreign applicants?

Since 2005, there has been a standardized 150-credit hour requirement in all states for those wishing to acquire CPA licensure, although some states allow applicants to sit the CPA exam once they have acquired 120 hours. A standard Bachelor’s degree will award you 120 credits. This means that you will need to obtain another 30 credits to meet on top of your basic degree. This is why some students decide to take a Master’s in Accounting. However, this is both costly and time consuming. That is why students are looking for more cost-effective ways to meet the 150-credit hour requirement. One method is to take online courses that award NASBA-recognized credits. CpaCredits.com is one such option, as all of CpaCredits’ courses are accredited through Monroe College, which is listed on the Council of Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA).

It is also important to note that each state has its own accounting and business course credit requirements. Furthermore, some states will only accept certain types of credit courses, while others will only accept college credits from NASBA approved colleges. These would exclude online courses.

Where are the international Prometric testing centers?

  1. In the Middle East, Israel and Saudi Arabia’s Prometric testing centers are open to participants from:
  • Bahrain
  • Egypt  
  • India  
  • Israel  
  • Jordan
  • Kuwait
  • Lebanon
  • Oman  
  • Pakistan
  • Qatar  
  • Saudi Arabia
  • United Arab Emirates (UAE)
  • United States (US)
  • Yemen

Bahrain, Lebanon, Kuwait and UAE’s Prometric testing centers are open to:

  • Bahrain,
  • Egypt
  • India
  • Jordan
  • Kuwait
  • Lebanon
  • Oman
  • Qatar
  • Saudi Arabia
  • UAE
  • Yemen

2. For Asia, the following countries can sit in the Republic of Korea and Japan’s Prometric testing centers:

  • China
  • Hong Kong
  • Japan
  • Macau
  • Mongolia
  • Republic of Korea
  • Republic of Singapore
  • Republic of the Philippines
  • Taiwan
  • US

India’s testing center allows for the following participants to sit:

  • India
  • Bhutan
  • Bangladesh
  • Myanmar
  • Maldives
  • Nepal
  • Sri Lanka
  • US

3. In South America, Brazil’s Prometric testing center is open to all of South America:

  • Antigua/ Barbuda
  • Argentina
  • Bahamas
  • Barbados
  • Belize
  • Bolivia
  • Brazil
  • Cayman Islands
  • Chile
  • Colombia
  • Costa Rica
  • Dominica
  • Dominican Republic
  • Ecuador
  • El Salvador
  • French Guiana
  • Grenada
  • Guatemala
  • Guyana
  • Haiti
  • Honduras
  • Jamaica
  • Mexico
  • Nicaragua
  • Panama
  • Paraguay
  • Peru
  • St. Kitts/Nevis
  • St. Lucia
  • St. Vincent/Grenadines
  • Suriname
  • Trinidad & Tobago
  • US
  • Uruguay
  • Venezuela

4. In Europe, all UK and EU members can sit in any Prometric testing center in:

  • England
  • Scotland
  • Ireland
  • Germany

5. Others: Would currently need to write the exam in one of the participating NASBA state jurisdictions.