How Indian BCOM CPA Candidate or Chartered Accountant Gets Qualified for the US CPA Exam

Indian BCOM CPAAre you an Indian BCOM CPA candidate who wishes to get take the CPA exam United States? Is your BCOM and CA degree not enough to get you qualified to take the exam? Have you tried several State Boards and credential evaluators but still can’t get a favorable response?

Let’s discuss the challenges and possible solutions on how to get you qualify to sit for the US CPA Exam.

(If you have a MCOM or relevant master’s degree that is NOT corresponding then you are most likely eligible for the CPA exam. You can proceed to read this post on how to start the application process)

A Post Dedicated to Indian BCOM CPA Candidates

Being an Indian Chartered Accountant is a great accomplishment and I like to commend you on that, but getting pass the US-centric CPA exam requirements can be frustrating and let me help you  go over the steps one by one.

Basic Requirements

To get the CPA license, all candidates need to fulfill the “3E”, that is, Education, Exam and Experience.

Generally speaking, you need to:

  • Obtain a 4-year bachelor degree AND accumulate 150 credit hours. This is equivalent to 5 years of higher education, but a few states are fine with 120 credit hours
  • Pass the 4 parts of the CPA exam within 18 months
  • Get your relevant experience properly verified

1A. The 4-Year Bachelor Degree Rule

Challenges

First of all, the tertiary degree system in India is different from that of the US – the bachelor program is in India 3 years while in the US it is 4 years.

Because of this, Indian CPA candidates cannot fulfill the first requirement of obtaining a 4-year bachelor degree.

In the past, there have been 3 solutions:

(a) Apply through Delaware

For the last few years Delaware is the only state that recognizes “associate degree” including 3-year non-US bachelor degree. However, Delaware is going to change its rule effective August 2012 so it will no longer work for you.

(b) Apply through Colorado or Michigan

Colorado and Michigan used to recognize CA certificate as a prerequisite to sit for the exam, and many Indian candidates applied through them. However, they have since changed the interpretation of the rules in 2009 and 2011/2 respectively and it no longer works.

(c) Apply through a few states that recognize Indian Chartered Accountancy

The CA certificate is recognized as a 4-year bachelor equivalent in the US by some states (e.g. New Hampshire, Montana, Colorado). However, since 2012 they have also changed the interpretation of their rules.

The Solution

It is a big challenge for B.COM with or without CA to pass this rule.

  • If you have B.COM only and are serious about getting your CPA qualification, I suggest that you take a 2-year master’s degree (see below on restrictions). At this stage I can’t see an easy way out.
  • If  you have B.COM + CA, then there may still be one solution for you and we will talk about it at the end of this post.

1B. The 150 Credit Hour Rule

Challenges

Typically one year of university equals to 90 credit hours. For a 3-year B.COM degree you will get 90 credit hours.

In the past, a CA certificate gave you an additional of around 40 credit hours. With  90+40=130 credit hours you can get qualified for a few states. However, since 2012 chartered accountancy has been considered a “experience qualification” rather than an “academic qualification” and so it is no longer given credits towards the educational requirements.

In other words, not much use from the Indian chartered accountancy in this regard.

The Solution

Fortunately there are solutions to this rule. Typically if you pass the above rule concerning the 4-year bachelor degree with an additional masters’ degree, you won’t have this issue.

If you are short of certain accounting or federal taxation courses, you can always take them at the “accredited educational institutions”, which includes community colleges in the US or online courses.

I haven’t personally vetted the following courses but they are recommended by my readers:

* I have gathered enough readers’ feedbacks that the UNA course is good and should work in terms of fulfilling the necessary requirements.

Some institutions outside of the US can be qualified too but you have to check carefully.

There will be extra time, money and effort involved but it is doable.

1C. Applying For The CPA Exam

Challenges

If you are fine with 1A and 1B above, you should be able to find a state that you can qualify. There is extensive information on CPA exam requirements by state here.

Once a State Board is chosen, the next step is to send your Indian transcripts and marksheets to the foreign credential evaluation agency.

If you get part of the educational credits from a school in the US, then for this part you don’t need to go through the evaluators. You’ll need to ask this US school to send the transcript to the State Board directly. Please read the instruction in the CPA exam application form for details.

Common Questions

1. Which evaluator should I use?

The State Board of your chosen state should indicate which evaluators you can pick from. Some allow you to choose anyone that is a member of the evaluators’ association (i.e. NACES), while others only recognizes one, e.g. FACS for Delaware.

While some evaluators do seem to be slightly lenient in terms of giving you more credit hours, I don’t have a personal recommendation. Depending on your needs you can either pick the cheapest or the fastest.

I went through FACS myself. They are cheaper and reliable but they take the longest time spanning from 4-8 weeks.

You can get more information on these evaluation agencies here.

2. How many credit hours do you think I can get?

Even the professional evaluators need time to review your school and specific subjects before making a decision. It is therefore understandable that I can’t give you a quick answer. I don’t have the expertise to evaluate transcripts so even if you send me one I won’t be able to help. Sorry about that.

Solution

You will have to make some commitment i.e. to pay the evaluators for a professional evaluation. It costs anywhere from ~ $100-300. Express service is available but will incur extra cost.

Some states offer pre-evaluation service which will show you which courses you lack. I think it is a good idea if you aren’t sure whether you can get qualified for that state.

2. Taking The CPA Exam

Once you are approved to sit for the exam, you will receive a Notice To Schedule (NTS) that allows you to schedule your exam in testing sites called the prometric center.

You don’t need to physically take the exam at the state you register at, e.g. you can register at Colorado and fly to California for the test.

Sep 29, 2014 update: Citizens and permanent residents of India are now allowed to sit for the exam in the Middle East. Here is the announcement from AICPA for your reference.

In terms of the CPA exam, it is likely the easiest step for international candidates. At least it is something within your control! If you need help I’d suggest that you take a review course from one of the top 10 CPA review courses.

Once you complete the 4 parts of the exam, most states require an ethics exam which is in open-book and self-study format.

3. Experience Requirement

Challenges

Most states require 1 to 2 years of experience. The challenge is that the State Boards only recognize “relevant” experience that is “properly verified”:

(a) Note on relevance

Some states only recognize public accounting i.e. auditing or related work in a CPA firm. If you work in the corporate, non-profit organization and non-US government agencies your experience cannot be counted.

IMPORTANT: when you pick a state to get qualified for the exam, this is an important consideration.

(b) Note on proper verification

All experience will have to be verified by a US CPA who keep his/her license active during the time you work(ed) for him/her. Most states require that this person to be your direct supervisor. Some states allow CPA “or equivalent”, which usually means a Canadian CA or Australian CA, but for the exact definition of this equivalency you will have to check with your State Board.

If you have previous working experience in India, unless you worked under a US CPA your experience cannot be counted. I know it is frustrating but we have to play by the rules.

Read this post to find out which states have flexible experience requirements

Questions

1. I have a H4 visa and I can’t work.

Yes, this could be an issue, but there are a few states that allow your supervisor to be a non-CPA. There are also states that recognize volunteer work.

The following link has lots of ideas, but focus on those that don’t require social security number.

Read this post to find out which states have flexible experience requirements

2. I live in India and I can’t find a CPA to work for.

This is also tough, but you may call up the Society of CPA of your registered state or explore the possibility of working in your local Big 4 which should have some US CPAs working in the firms.

Alternatively, go for CPA certificate / inactive license / non-reporting license, or pick a state that requires verification vs supervision of experience.

Washington state, Montana or Indiana where you are allowed to have a US CPA verify your experience without actually working under him/her. If you have social security number, Virginia and North Dakota have relatively flexible experience requirements as well and you can go explore.

A Note On CPA Exam International Sites

Question: I work in UAE and am considered a long-term resident. Should I take the CPA exam there?

At least in terms of the residency requirements you are qualified as a long-term resident to take the CPA exam in UAE. Please beware of the following:

Not all states allow candidates to take the exam in international sites. California is one example. You can go to this page for the list.

There is a stricter requirement to fulfill the working experience requirement: you have to get the working experience fulfilled within 3 years or they will void your CPA exam results, if you take the exam outside of US jurisdiction. However, if you take it within the US, many states have no restrictions while some give you 10 years.

To learn more about taking the CPA exam outside the US please click here.

This Is All Too Confusing. Can I Get Help?

The State Boards are actively closing what they see as “loopholes” which makes getting qualified exceedingly difficult for Indian candidates.

I personally have run out of ideas for B.COM + CA holders, but my friend Leslie-Ann at CPAexcel said she still has one “combination” (a specific state + a specific evaluator) that works.

It is understandable that she provides service only to CPAexcel students and you may find out the exact state that works after you purchase the CPAexcel course. Rest assured that they have a good product with a 87% passing rate among their students. There is a 95% refund if Leslie-Anne can’t get you qualified at the end.

  • Check out Leslie-Anne’s page here
  • Or read about my evaluation on CPAexcel here

Do You Still Have A Question On Your Unique Situation?