International CPA Exam Candidature and International Reciprocity Options

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International candidates, whether seeking initial CPA licensure or CPA license reciprocity, have more opportunities than ever, thanks to the combined efforts of the National Association of State Boards of Accountancy (NASBA) and the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants (AICPA).

NASBA, within the international sector, utilizes the term “candidate” to refer to one of two individuals:

  • I: Students seeking to obtain the CPA designation: Candidates living in other countries can qualify to apply to a participating jurisdiction and take the Uniform CPA examination. NASBA, along with Prometric testing centers and the AICPA, have also begun administering the Uniform CPA Examination outside of the U.S.
  • II: Working accounting professionals: International accounting professionals may seek a reciprocal CPA designation by taking the International Qualification Examination (IQEX).

I: How to Become a CPA – The International CPA Examination Administration Program

International students seeking initial CPA licensure may do so through NASBA’s International CPA Examination Administration Program. Candidates must apply through a participating jurisdiction to take the Uniform CPA Examination and become licensed.

The majority of U.S. jurisdictions participate in the International CPA Examination Administration Program so as to allow international candidates to become CPAs. To date, the only jurisdictions that do NOT participate in the International CPA Examination Administration Program include:

Applicants can learn more about the application process for participating jurisdictions here.

To qualify to become a CPA as an international candidate, applicants must:

  • Meet the board of accountancy eligibility requirements in one of the jurisdictions that accepts international candidates
  • Be able to take the Uniform CPA Examination in English

International applicants should keep in mind:

  • The application process for international and U.S. applicants is largely identical.
  • They must select the U.S. jurisdiction in which they will apply and apply through the appropriate board of accountancy to establish their eligibility to participate in the International CPA Examination Administration Program.

Taking the Uniform CPA Examination Abroad
In addition to Prometric testing centers across the U.S., international candidates can now take the Uniform CPA Examination at Prometric testing centers in Bahrain, Lebanon, Japan, Kuwait, Brazil, and the United Arab Emirates, provided they have established their eligibility through a state board of accountancy.

An applicant’s residency status determines the locations at which they are eligible to take the examination.

Applicants eligible to take the examination in an international location include:

  • U.S. citizens and permanent residents living abroad
  • Citizens and long-term residents of countries through which the examination may be administered (with some exceptions in the Middle East)

To schedule to take the Uniform CPA Examination in an international location, applicants must:

  • Apply through a participating state board of accountancy
  • Register to take the examination in an international location once a Notice to Schedule has been received
  • Complete the registration process through a participating jurisdiction
  • Apply to test internationally and complete the international registration process

II: How to Qualify for International CPA License Reciprocity and Apply for the International Uniform Certified Public Accountant Qualification Examination (IQEX)

The International Uniform Certified Public Accountant Qualification Examination (IQEX) is designed to ensure that candidates for reciprocity possess an adequate level of technical knowledge and skills. Working accounting professionals in other countries may apply for a CPA license by taking and passing the IQEX.

However, only those accounting professionals working in countries with mutual recognition agreements may earn the CPA designation. Currently, the following licensing and regulatory bodies have entered into such agreements:

  • New Zealand Institute of Chartered Accountants
  • Instituto Mexicano de Contadores Publicos (IMCP)
  • Institute of Chartered Accountants in Australia (ICAA)
  • Hong Kong Institute of Certified Public Accountants (HKICPA)
  • Chartered Accountants Ireland (CAI)
  • Canadian Institute of Chartered Accountants (CICA)

The IQEX is designed to assess an applicant’s knowledge of the differences between the federal taxation business laws and ethics practices in the U.S. and the accounting and auditing practices of other countries.

Eligible applicants must submit a Letter of Good Standing from their original institution every time they apply to take the IQEX. Eligibility requirements include:

  • Applicants in Canada must have passed the Uniform Final Examination (UFE) IN Canada and must be a member in good standing with the Provincial CA Institute.
  • CPAs in Hong Kong that want to practice in the U.S. must read the Mutual Recognition Agreement Between Hong Kong and U.S. detailing application requirements for the U.S. CPA Designation. CPAs in the U.S. who want to practice in Hong Kong must do the same.
  • Applicants in Australia must have qualified as a Chartered Accountant in Australia and must be a member in good standing with the Institute of Chartered Accountants in Australia.
  • Applicants in Ireland must have qualified as a Chartered Accountant in Ireland (CAI), must have successfully completed the CAI Final Admitting Examination, and must be a member in good standing with the CAI.
  • Applicants in New Zealand must have completed four years of an approved degree at an approved tertiary, must have completed New Zealand’s Professional Competence Program, and must be in good standing with the New Zealand Institute of Chartered Accountants.
  • Applicants in Mexico must be a member in good standing with the Instituto Mexicano de Contadores Publicos and must have qualified as a Contador Publico Certificado (CPC).

Applicants can contact the National Association of the State Boards of Accountancy (NASBA) with questions regarding the application process at 1-800-CPA-EXAM or 615-880-4250 or cpaexam@nasba.org.