International Topics: Frequently Asked Questions 

    Published April 14, 2010

    Three elements are taken into account for obtaining a license to practice public accounting in the United States: education, examination and experience. This question and answer list has been developed to assist in clarifying the licensing process.

    1. How do I become a CPA in the U.S.?

    The first thing you should know is that the AICPA is a voluntary membership organization and does not license CPAs in the U.S. Licenses are granted by the individual states. Once you decide in which state you would like to become licensed, you should contact the State Board of Accountancy in that state for further information on their requirements. You may be requested to send a copy of your university transcripts to that state in order for them to verify your educational qualifications. If applicable, they would then tell you what additional courses you need to complete before you would be permitted to sit for the CPA Exam. It is possible that you would be able to complete those courses in the country where you are located. Contact the State Boards of Accountancy for more information.

    Once your educational qualifications meet the requirements of the state board, you are then eligible to sit for the CPA exam. This exam is primarily offered only in the United States, although there are sites in Guam, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands. In 2011, the CPA exam will be offered in select locations overseas.  Find out more in this AICPA International Testing FAQ

    After passing the exam, and meeting necessary experience or other requirements, the State Board of Accountancy would then issue you a CPA license. Once you have been issued a CPA license, you are eligible for full membership in the AICPA.

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    2. I am a:

    • Chartered Accountant in Australia
    • Chartered Accountant in Canada
    • CPA in Hong Kong
    • Chartered Accountant Ireland
    • Chartered Accountant in New Zealand
    • Mexican Contadoro/a Publicos/as

    How do I become a U.S. CPA?

    The good news is that, once you have completed your full program, you may be eligible to take the special 4 ½-hour International Qualifications Examination (IQEX) rather than the regular 14-hour Uniform CPA Examination. The purpose of IQEX is to facilitate the U.S. CPA qualification process for those accounting professionals from other countries whose professional bodies have entered into Mutual Recognition Agreements with the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants (AICPA) and the National Association of State Boards of Accountancy (NASBA). At present, agreements are in effect only with the Canadian Institute of Chartered Accountants (CICA), Institute of Chartered Accountants in Australia (ICAA), Instituto Mexicano De Contadores Publicos (IMCP), Chartered Accountants Ireland (CAI), and the New Zealand Institute of Chartered Accountants (NZICA). For information on the IQEX, including a list of states in which you may be eligible to take the IQEX, click here.

    In addition to passing the IQEX, you are required to meet all the other requirements of the state board in the state where you would like to become licensed. Each state has slightly different requirements for becoming a CPA. The AICPA does not license CPAs and is a voluntary membership organization. Once you decide in which state you would like to be licensed, you should contact that State Board of Accountancy for further information on the requirements and your eligibility to take the IQEX. Learn more by contacting the State Boards of Accountancy.

    After passing the IQEX and meeting the other necessary requirements, the State Board of Accountancy would issue you a CPA license. Once you have been awarded your CPA license, you are eligible for full membership in the AICPA.

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    3. I hold a license or designation from the Association of Chartered Certified Accountants (ACCA). How can I become a U.S. CPA?

    Unfortunately, the designation from the ACCA is not generally recognized by the states in the U.S., so you are required to complete all of the regular requirements to become a U.S. Certified Public Accountant (CPA). Information on becoming a CPA in the U.S. is available here.

    The AICPA is a voluntary membership organization and does not license CPAs in the U.S. Licenses are granted by the individual states. Once you decide in which state you would like to become licensed, you should contact the State Board of Accountancy in that state for further information on their requirements. You may be requested to send a copy of your university transcripts to that state board in order for them to verify your educational qualifications. If applicable, they would then tell you what additional courses you need to complete before you would be permitted to sit for the CPA Exam. It is possible that you would be able to complete those courses in the country where you are located. For more information, contact the State Boards of Accountancy

    Once your educational qualifications meet the requirements of the state board, you are then eligible to sit for the CPA exam. This exam is primarily offered only in the United States, although there are sites in Guam, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands. In 2011, the CPA exam will be offered in select locations overseas.  Find out more in this AICPA International Testing FAQ

    After passing the exam, and meeting necessary experience or other requirements, the State Board of Accountancy would then issue you a CPA license. Once you have been issued a CPA license, you are eligible for full membership in the AICPA.

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    4. I hold a license or designation from another country that is not listed in question #2 or question #3 above. How can I become a U.S. CPA?

    Unfortunately, your license or designation is not recognized by any of the states in the U.S., so you are required to complete all of the regular requirements to become a U.S. Certified Public Accountant (CPA). Information on becoming a CPA in the U.S. is available here.

    The first thing you should know is that the AICPA is a voluntary membership organization and does not license CPAs in the U.S. Licenses are granted by the individual states. Once you decide in which state you would like to become licensed, you should contact the State Board of Accountancy in that state for further information on its requirements. You may be requested to send a copy of your university transcripts to that state in order for the board to verify your educational qualifications. If applicable, they would then tell you what additional courses you need to complete before you would be permitted to sit for the CPA Exam. It is possible that you would be able to complete those courses in the country where you are located. For contact information for each of the State Boards of Accountancy, click here.

    Once your educational qualifications meet the requirements of the state board, you are then eligible to sit for the CPA exam. The Exam is primarily offered only in the United States, although there are sites in Guam, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands. In 2011, the CPA exam will be offered in select locations overseas.  Find out more in this AICPA International Testing FAQ

    After passing the exam, and meeting necessary experience or other requirements, the State Board of Accountancy would then issue you a CPA license. Once you have been issued a CPA license, you are eligible for full membership in the AICPA.

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    5. What do I have to do to work as an accountant in the U.S. and how do I obtain a visa?

    You do not have to be a U.S. Certified Public Accountant (CPA) to work as an accountant in the U.S. However, if you are interested in becoming a CPA in the U.S., information on how to do so can be found here.

    Only CPAs are professionally licensed to provide attestation (including auditing) opinions on publicly disseminated financial statements. However, individuals who do not hold a CPA license may perform most other accounting-related work in the U.S.

    Information on obtaining a U.S. visa is available here.

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    6. How do I become an AICPA International Associate and what are the membership benefits?

    The AICPA provides the International Associate membership option for full, regular members of AICPA board-approved Institutes from Australia, Canada, England and Wales, Germany, Hong Kong, Ireland, Japan, Mexico, New Zealand, Scotland and South Africa.  Information on how to become an International Associate, and the many benefits that membership in the AICPA provides, is available here.

    7. If I am an AICPA International Associate member, can I call myself a CPA?

    Becoming an AICPA International Associate does not confer any designation or license. Certified Public Accountants (CPAs) are accounting professionals of the United States who have passed the Uniform CPA Exam and have met additional state-specific requirements for licensure as a CPA. Only CPAs are professionally licensed to provide attestation (including auditing) opinions on publicly disseminated financial statements. Many states prohibit individuals without a CPA license from calling themselves a public accountant, Certified Public Accountant or other similar description.

    Information on becoming a CPA in the U.S. is available here.

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    8. If I am an AICPA International Associate member, and I am also a member of a professional accounting association that is a full-member of the International Federation of Accountants (IFAC), what letters or title may I use behind my name in my country? In the U.S.?

    Becoming an AICPA International Associate does not confer any designation or license. An International Associate may only use the words "AICPA International Associate" on business cards and letterhead.

    In your country, you must comply with your country’s laws and regulations with respect to what titles or designations you may or may not use after your name.

    If you were to come to the U.S., the letters you would be able to use after your name would depend entirely on the state where you reside. Some states prohibit persons without a CPA license granted by that state to enhance the term “accountant" in any way on their business cards or letterheads. This means that you could not use “CA” or “CPA” in those states, even if you held those designations in your country (or even sometimes another U.S. state).

    It is prohibited for those without a CPA license granted by the state where they intend to practice to use the letters “CA” or “CPA” after their names, even if they hold those designations in their countries (or even another U.S. state), unless they specifically indicate that it is a designation granted by that other jurisdiction.

    The reason for these laws is to avoid confusion in the market place. Certified Public Accountants (CPAs) are accounting professionals of the United States who have passed the Uniform CPA Exam and have met additional state-specific requirements for licensure as a CPA. CPAs are professionally licensed to provide attestation (including auditing) opinions on publicly disseminated financial statements. The state laws are designed to ensure that it is perfectly clear who holds a license in that state, and who does not. In fact, similar laws are in place in many other countries for the same reason.

    To obtain information on the use of designations and titles in any state, contact the local State Board of Accountancy in that jurisdiction.

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    Still have a question? Contact the AICPA Member Service Center anytime!




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