CPA Reciprocity Rule and Substantial Equivalent States

cpa reciprocity rulesCPA Reciprocity is complicated in a way that each state has different rules, and the rules keep changing. Before we get into the details, let’s take a look at the history and the recent development to streamline the CPA reciprocity rules:

CPA Reciprocity: Why the Need

As you may aware, the CPA license is granted by individual State Board of Accountancy in the US. Because of this legacy issue, CPAs often encounter difficulties when it comes to cross-border practice, i.e. providing public accounting service to their clients across jurisdictions.

In order to cater the out-of-state CPAs and accounting firms, each state had its own rules, regulations and requirements to allow these professionals to provide services in that state. This created a patchwork system that was inefficient and difficult to understand.

CPA Reciprocity: The Solution

To streamline the process and reduce additional licensing fees, the AICPA and NASBA have been promoting a “uniform CPA exam requirements”: All states are deemed equal and thus the license granted are considered the same throughout the United States.

Specially, the AICPA and NASBA have worked together a “Uniform Accountancy Act” with the following guidance on the CPA exam requirements for each state (known as the “3E”s):

  • Fulfill the 150 credit hours of “Education”
  • Pass the Uniform CPA “Exam”
  • Accumulate at least one year of “Experience”

Most of the states have adopted this rule since 2007.

CPA Reciprocity: Current Status

Only Virgin Islands are NOT considered substantially equivalent.

The following are substantially Equivalent States but an alternative path still exists that allow candidates to get a CPA license without fulfilling the 3 Es above. In other words, these are “borderline” states that are recognized by some but not others in terms of reciprocity:

  • California — until January 1, 2014
  • Colorado — 2015
  • New Hampshire — until July 1, 2014
  • Vermont

Case Study: CPA Reciprocity in Illinois

For example, Illinois has adopted the Uniform Accountancy Act. It is obvious that it does not recognize Colorado, Puerto Rico and Virgin Islands, but it doesn’t allow reciprocity to states such as Delaware, New Hampshire and Vermont. California is considered “borderline” and may be approved under certain circumstances.

Source: Illinois State Board of Accountancy

Implications To CPA Exam Candidates

Please note that if you are picking a state to sit for the exam, please pay attention to the states that have yet to fully comply with the substantial equivalency test. The good news is, these states will eventually be fully recognized once they scrap away the alternative pathways.

Further Reading

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  1. zarak says

    thanx for your last reply. As i planned for colorado state which in not subtantially equivalent to other states,so tell me if i cleared from colorado and ritenow m having fours years of experience from big four Audit firm under CPA in pakistan,then in that case could i trsnsfer myself to illinois??cuz m elligilbe for colorado ritenow but interested in illinois in future. the reson why i am not interested in colorado cuz many people told me that there in no market and lack of jobs available there in colorado.what you suggest.
    thanx alot for your kind information.

    • Stephanie says

      Hi Zarak,
      It depends on how you are going to make use of your CPA title. Let’s say if you are getting it primarily for credentials only or you plan to work in accounting apartment in private business, non-profit etc, then there is nothing to worry about getting a Colorado license because all you need to write in your CV is that you are a CPA and that’s what these employers care about, regardless of where they are based within the US (or even outside of US).

      But if you do plan to become an auditor and work in a CPA firm, then there may be a difference in the state you are going to choose. Generally, it doesn’t really matter that much as a junior accountant because you can be one without a license anyway… but as you move up to partnership you’ll need that license to sign audit report, etc, and that’s when you want a CPA qualification from a substantially equivalent state.

      But theoretically, by then Colorado should (hopefully) comply with the rules that make it consider substantially equivalent (the plan is 2015, if I remember correctly). And everyone who got the Colorado CPA license before then will be grandfathered. Once this is effective, you can easily get your license in IL; in fact, there is no need to get it because your CO license will be automatically recognized anywhere in the US.

      Whether things will work out as perfectly as outlined above is uncertain so this will be the risk that you may or may not want to take in Colorado license.

      Hope this helps in clearing up the issues in substantial equivalency. Cheers, Stephanie

  2. Rajesh says

    Hi Stephanie,

    i got to know that there are recently several positive changes in state eligibility regulations and they may affect us H4 holders who are without SSN but i don’t have the details. can you advise us on this like what are those changes?.



    • Stephanie says

      Hi Rajesh,
      What type of “positive changes”? I haven’t heard of any but I’d love to know myself. If you could tell me what you heard I can do some digging. Stephanie

  3. Mark says

    I am from New Jersey but go to school in Pennsylvania. I am currently a senior and I am the last class to not have to obtain 150 credit hours in order to get a CPA license. However, if I pass the CPA exam in Pennsylvania would I be allowed to practice in New Jersey or New York? Or would I need to go back and get the additional credit hours?


  4. rohan says

    Hi Stephanie,

    I read on your Delaware section that after clearing CPA, to get the license, my experience could be legitimate if signed by Canadian CA also? He/She doesnt have to be only CPA from USA…is that true? Do you know how many states accept that? I am in process of clearing all my exams from NY State.

    • Stephanie says

      Hi Rohan,
      Yes many states accept “CPA equivalent” (e.g. CA from Canada) but not all. In fact, Delaware only accepts CPA US. I can’t recall the specific requirement for NY. Maybe you can call up NY State Board and double check? Stephanie

  5. John says

    I have been told that there is a particular state that international accountants tend to take their CPA exam at. I am in an accounting class at the moment and have an assignment tied to this fact. I think I have narrowed it down to Delaware do to its transferability across borders but i am asuming this notion. I have found no data to back my assumption up.

  6. P says

    Hi Stephanie,

    I am delaware certificate(CPA) holder in delaware and also have applied for license since I have finished my 4 years of experience under a CPA.I had passed my CPA exam in 2006 and I had Bachelors degree from India which is (12+3).So as per delaware requirement I completed my 4 years of experience to get the license.According to new law in delaware does it mean after Jan 1,2012 I can practice in any of those substantially equivivalent states without meeting their credit requirments.Can I sign as CPA once I move up to the management level even without meeting their credit requirements because I am going to get grandfathered in delware how about other states? Thanks in advance

    • Stephanie says

      Hi P,
      First of all, congratulations! It does take time to finish off the 4 years doesn’t it.
      Yes my understanding is that whenever the new law becomes effective (scheduled in 2012, but need to check whether it really becomes law then), then you get grandfathered and can sign audit reports anywhere across the country.

      For now, you can still put your CPA title in the business card, which is nice :)

      Cheers, Stephanie

  7. archana says

    Hi Stephanie,
    What happens when DE takes the 150 credit hr rule, and if I have passed one section, of the exam?

    • Stephanie says

      Hi Archana,
      It is hard to tell — based on other states’ practice, some will let the current candidates to stay with the old rules, but others (I would say most) will just have the rule effective immediately. In a way you can’t blame them because they told you the plan way head. So I would think it’s better for you to assume the latter case. Stephanie

  8. Paul says

    Hi Stephanie,
    Currently I have active CO license until 2012. However, since theoretically, Colorado will only comply with the UAA rules in 2015, I’d like to hear your comments on the possibility of transferring my license to other states already complied with UAA in order to practice and sign as a CPA in other states.

    • Stephanie says

      Hi Paul,
      I believe that you as a current CO licensee can get grandfathered so you can enjoy the benefit of CO becoming a substantially equivalent state. So in this case there is no need to switch, but since rules are always changing you can check with the state board for details.

      In fact, I find that for questions such as this the CO Society of CPA is more helpful. Hope it helps! stephanie

  9. Laura says

    Hi Stephanie,

    This website is so helpful; thank you!! I have a quick question. I recently passed all 4 sections of my CPA and the ethics exam and recently received my congratulations letter from the Minnesota State Board of Accountancy. I did everything through Minnesota because that is where I was planning to work in public accounting when I took my exam. I took an accounting internship in Connecticut for a year (July 2010-July 2011), although my permanent address is in Minnesota. I am now planning to move to Chicago, IL in July 2011 and work in public accounting there, instead of Minnesota. My question is if I should skip the certification process in Minnesota and go right to Illinois? Or get certified in Minnesota and then transfer to Illinois? Do I have to do this asap or can I wait until I move to Illinois in July? There is a 60 day rule in Minnesota for certification and I am just wondering what I should do and what is the best way to transfer everything. I hope this makes sense. Thanks so much for your help.


  10. vik says

    Hi Stephanie,
    I’m a Delaware candidate and cleared all the 4 parts in 2010. My Bachelors is from India (12+3) Do you know if I can get my CPA certificate from Delaware?

  11. pdiddy says

    Hi Stephanie, I’m a NY cadidate for the CPA exam. I sat for the AUD part in Aug 2008 but i did not pass. I have changed jobs and i no longer work for a license CPA however i would like to receive a lisence or a certificate, even if it is from another state. If I am able to pass all 4 parts sitting as NY candidate could i apply after i pass at another state where i qualified.

  12. Conrad says

    You have been a great source of help for those who wants to pursue CPA. As far as Reciprocity is concerned, Caolorado falls behind Delaware. I suggest international candidates would benefit from Delware despite their requirement to complete federal tax program which should not be an issue… What do you suggest for people having (Graduation) and M.Com or MBA (masters) from Indian universities? Colorado or Delaware? I feel the prospective CPA should take early precautions while selecting appropriate state board. Appreciate your help and thanks for your most valuable suggestions.

  13. M says

    Hi i did my degree in Canada a four year b.comm majoring in accounting. I was accepted to write my exams in delaware but never actually got through them. I now live in texas. When I apply to write in texas, what more courses will I have to do because apparently texas requirements alot more strict than those of delaware. Since i have gone through the paper work for delaware should I still write through them and then try to transfer over or do it all over again?

  14. Maria says

    Hi Stephanie,
    I am passed all four sections of the CPA in CO. I have met CO’s requirements for 120 hours. I also have one year work experience as an auditor under liscenced CPA. I will be moving to FL. I see that there is 150 hour requirement. Can I get liscenced in CO and then transfer it to FL, or should I do it directly in FL? Is there a way around the 150 hours if you are liscenced in another state? What do you think is the best way to approach this situation?

  15. Soumya says

    HI Stephanie,
    I’m from India..
    I have done my 4 year graduation in Computer science engineering.. I have heard about CPA.. may i know if engineering graduates like me are eligible for doing CPA in US.. If so may i know how is the procedure to be followed in detail please??? I actualy have a good intrest in Finance and accounting and want to do CPA.. i hope u would help me with required information..
    Thanks& Regards,

  16. Conrad says

    As per my undestanding if you have an engineering degree (not finance major) you can still pursue CPA provided you fulfill the criteria of pre requisites – Financial accounting, Costong, Auditing and tax. Otherwise it is very hard for you to get enrolled for the testing/exams. In the meantime, you can send your certifications for professional evaluations services to find out you actually fulfill these requirements or not. Try WES (world education Servcies ) and see what you have and what you need to do in addition for accomlishing your passion towards Finance and accounting career.

  17. Boyd Baker says


    I passed the CPA exam in California several years ago, and was subsequently licensed under Pathway 1 (I have about 140 hours of education). If I wanted to practice in another state, would I be able to take the necessary classes to reach that 150-hour total to become substantially equivalent in the target state? Or, because I chose Pathway 1, is it not even an option for me to become licensed in another state?

  18. Ashok says

    Hi Stephanie
    My education is from India. I have an active CO license since 2008. I do not have 150 hours. I plan to practice in NJ. What are the rules for reciprocity licensure in NJ. Is there any rule if my CO license is more than 4 years old then I can apply for reciprocitory in NJ.

  19. Neha Sood says

    Hi Stephanie,

    Hope you are doing well!!

    I was hoping just like the above candidates, if you could please analyze my current situation and advise me with the best possible solution.

    I passed the CPA examination from the state of Colorado in July 2009 and I will be shortly applying for my CPA license.

    I am a Canadian, currently living and working outside of Canada and am I now planning to move back to Canada. I am thererfore planning to apply for a CA from Canada, as it is important for one to have a Canadian designation to be able to find suitable roles.

    Currently CA Canada is not recognizing Colorado as an equivalent state, makingn me ineligible for an advanced level exam i.e. CARE.

    I am now thinking that after I obtain my license from Colorado, I will then re-apply for a license from a US state such as California that is currently being recognized by CA Canada as an equivalent state. This will help me fasten my process of being eligible to write the CARE exam and get the CA designation from Canada (with the required work experience).

    In addition, to having passed all the requirements (education, experience, and ethics) from the state of Colorado, I have a university degree (4 yrs) from Canada and I have 2+ years of Big 4 audit experience and I am hoping to continue my Big 4 experience once I move back to Canada as well.

    Thanks in advance for your help and guidance!!



  20. Cynthia says

    Hi Stephanie,

    Your website is real helpful. I have a 3 year Bachelors degree and Chartered Accoutancy from India. I currenly passed all my CPA exams from the State of Colarado in 12/2010. I then applied for the CO CPA license, under work exp in lieu of education since I received 140 credits from ECS. However my application got rejected just two days back saying that the Chartered accountancy is not considered equivalent to the education coursework. Please advice what I should do in this case. I am currently working with in the accounting dept for a service industry and dont intend to work in public accounting, but I need the CPA license to be able to put it on my resume. I have one and half year of US work experience and 3 years of public accounting experience outside of US in the last 7 years. Please advice which state would be the best. I was thinking of Delaware but I do not know if my education would be considered as bachelors equivalent or associates making the number of years of work experience increase.



  21. Sanjay says


    I passed all my 4 cpa exams in CA and meet the 150 semeter units. Can I apply for cpa licensing in CO as it doesn’t require 1 year working experience under a CPA??. I already have my own firm in CA for last 3 years and when checked with CA board of accountancy they told me that if I hv a license from any other state they will consider my self-employment experience. So my question is can I get a CO cpa license though I didn’t appear for cap exams in CO and don’t live in CO.

    Thanks in advance

  22. ben says

    Your website is real helpful & informative. Let me start with introducing me & my situation. I have successfully passed all four sections of the CPA Exam. In May, 2011 from the state of Pennsylvania, therefore my exam credits are right now with PA Board. Further, I graduated from India & earned a B.Com, & 1 year law degree, which when got evaluated by ECE stands equivalent to BS in business administration with major Accountancy & MS in business administration, making a total of more than 150 credits, to be specific it’s 158.5 & additional semester hrs. credit for 1 year law comes to 31.5. According to my understanding have already earned 2 ‘e’ from the 3. Now the experience is the issue that I am facing. I currently work for a local govt. and did work under a direct supervision of a PA certified & active licensed CPA for around 7 months but she refuses to provide me experience certification for the period I worked under her. However, the dept. managed to place me in another dept. where I could earn experience under another CPA. I wanted to know that can I take some action against the supervisor who refuses to provide me experience for the period I worked under her, as I have all evidences of weekly reports, email stating & discussing about the experience certification & her clear intend of providing me experience for the period I worked. Right now am so much confused but I am very definite that I want a license not only a wall certification. I obtained a lot of information from your website. I am already aware of CO & IL state system.
    My Main Concerns are as follows:
    1. If I obtain a certificate & not a license from IL now by transferring my credits from PA, Then will I get the license under the grandfather rule after 1 July, 2012 without any experience? Moreover, if that’s correct then later on can transfer my license to PA from IL as will become substantially equivalent reciprocity licensure.
    I don’t know whether I need 1 year or 2 year experience in order to get license from PA. the state board of PA wrote to me as follows “The board shall be satisfied that: Bachelor’s Degree or higher degree approved by the department of Education and completed a total of 150 semester credits of post-secondary education, including at least of total of twenty-four semester credits of accounting and auditing, business law, finance or tax subjects, and an additional twelve semester credits in accounting, auditing and tax subjects of a content satisfactory to the board (must have credits in each subject)”
    So from this my understanding is I need 24 credits in total of all subjects mentioned above & also need 12 credit individually. Now according to my calculation I have 36.5 in accountant, 13.5 in audit, 22 in law, 4.5 in tax.
    Further learnt that I have to earn my experience within few months & apply for license, otherwise will be required to earn c.p.e credits for licensing if not earned within the reporting period. Can you explain, what exactly the reporting period is?
    Please provide some guidance or at least a start for what I should do?

    Signing off,

  23. Chasity says

    I have taken and passed all four parts of the CPA exam in NE. I have been unable to get a job in NE to fulfill my two years of experience required to get my license. Can I file for reciprocity with IA before I actually get my license and get my two years of expreience in IA? Then I would just have an IA license?

  24. Jessie says

    Hi Stephanie,

    It is my understanding that the CPA exam is uniformed, so no matter in which state I passed the 4 exams, I should be able to transfer the credits to another state and get the license if I meet the education and experience requirement. Is that correct?

  25. Francisco says

    Hi Stephanie,
    I’m a Canadian Resident Accountant (no Designation) with BBA and MBA in Accounting from a Florida University. I have no experience under a CPA supervision. I want to get my CPA and possibly try to work in Florida in the future, but I do not have a SSN… Should I choose another State and than “move” to Florida? What’s the best path for me?

  26. Vandana Patel says

    Hi Stephanie,
    I am planning to give CPA from Colorado. But i stay at Texas. I wanted to know whether after clearing my CPA exam from Colorado, how can i transfer this credit to Texas Board. Whether i can fulfill my one year experience requirement from Texas after clearing CPA exam from Colorado.

  27. Wendy says

    If I take the cpa of New Hampshire, and before June 2014, I have passed all exams and accumulated required work experience and I have already over 150 credits, could my cpa license be transferred to other states?

  28. deepak says

    I am an international candidate. I cleared all the 4 sections of the CPA exam in one go in Dec.2007 from New Hampshire State Board. I have the following queries :
    (i) Are my results valid for life time or will get expired after some stipulated period. If yes, after how much time period.
    (ii) Do I need to pass “Ethics paper” also for obtaining certificate/ licence from the New Hampshire State Board.”.
    (iii) Pl. confirm whether i need to undergo 1 year or 2 years of work experience to obtain certificate/ license from New Hampshire Board and for obtaining membership of AICPA.
    (iv) Do I have to undergo training in US under a CPA and what is the average stipend or remuneration the CPAs generally offer to the trainees (rough idea) and whether US grants H1B visa for undergoing CPA training in US.

    Pl. advise.

  29. Rob says

    Hi Stephanie,

    I originally took the exam in Iowa in May of 1996 while graduating with BA in acctg (only 124 hours). Fast forward to last November and I completed the CPA exam. While I can’t get a license in Iowa, it looks like I can get grandfathered for the 150 rule in Illinois based on taking the exam in another jurisdiction before 2001. Am I crazy to think that I can get my license in Illinois and turn around and transfer it back to Iowa where I still reside without having to meet the 150 hour rule?

  30. Stephanie says

    Dear all, thanks for all your comments. To make sure I reply promptly I have set up a facebook page to answer all your questions. Please go to the page here. Thank you and see you there. Stephanie