CPA Eligibility Guide from a Pakistani Candidate

The following CPA eligibility guide is written by one of my favorite readers, Moid Raza. He offers great insight to international candidates, especially those from Pakistan.

Certified Public Accountant (CPA) is one of the most prestigious and acclaimed professional certifications.

CPA is considered out of reach from Pakistani Bachelors due to lower credit hours as per the eligibility requirements in the United States.

As per my experience, becoming eligible for CPA is more difficult than CPA exam itself. However, after a lot of efforts, discussions, time and money (of course), I found certain ways that may help you to be eligible for CPA. BUT please note that this is a bumpy road as you may need to go for different courses which need efforts and time, in order to get this right in the first place. It needs determination and efforts!!! So if you are not committed, turn back now.

So letโ€™s get started!!!!

State Requirements for CPA

There are 55 US States (including Guam and Porto Rico) where CPA exam is available. Each state has different Academic and Experience requirements for eligibility. National Association of State Boards of Accountancy (NASBA) is the official body for the state boards and you need to visit this site for more details on CPA Exams.

Since 2012, NASBA allowed certain international centers where the CPA exams are conducting. If you are a [citizen or long-term] resident in the appointed country, no need to visit your
US state for CPA exam any more. The countries include GCC (Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Qatar, UAE, Bahrain etc) and Japan. You need to check out this site for more details.

As international students, the Bachelor Degree is required to be evaluated by an approved evaluator.

Some states have specific evaluators and some have a list on their respective state websites. You need to be careful in selecting the evaluator as some evaluators have so many requirements that you need a lot of efforts to complete those. I will not go into detail of it as we should concentrate on the ones which we shall need. If you want to know the list of evaluators and further, Google is your best friend. Information is also available on NASBA website.

Additional Requirements for Licensing

We also need to understand one requirement which many people ignore and have problems later on. As a Pakistani Bachelor degree holder, we do not have adequate credit hours for CPA License.

Now, NASBA has made it mandatory for you to have a license if you have passed the exam. Once you pass your CPA exam, you need to complete the requirement of credit hours for license or else your grades shall expire after 3 years [if you are to sit for the exam in non-US locations].

However, there are certain states classified as Tier 1 and Tier 2. Tier 1 States require you to have license in order to be considered as CPA, however, for Tier 2 States, a certificate is initially provided which does not allow the individual full privileges as a CPA. After additional requirements are met, the certificate holder may receive a license or permit. You can find details on Licensing on this NASBA page.

Prior to 2012, NASBA considered Pakistani CA and ACCA as eligible academic education. However, since 2012, they considered it as a professional education, thus do not consider for credit hours requirements, except for a very few states. See I surprise you here too!!!

After a lot of efforts and discussion, as per my knowledge and experience, there are 2 states where you have a good chance of CPA eligibility.

  • If you are not a qualified Accountant from ICAP or ACCA, Montana is the best available state for you.
  • If you are a qualified CA or ACCA, Alaska is the best state for you, as they still consider CA and ACCA for eligibility, but till when, God knows ๐Ÿ™‚

Why Montana?

Montana is a good choice for the following reasons:

  • It has low credit hours requirement till now (24 semester hours)
  • It allows International Testing
  • It is a Tier 2 state which means if you pass your exam, you score will never expire, however, you cannot have a license, as explained earlier.
  • You can get details of eligibility and other requirements here

(Update from Stephanie: Montana has become a 1-tier state effective July 1, 2015. Moid’s suggestion may no longer work)

Montana CPA Eligibility Step-by-step Guide

Please note that all the below steps are based on the following assumptions (based on my experience):

  1. Bachelor of Commerce from an HEC recognized University from Pakistan
  2. Unqualified Chartered Accountant (CA finalist, but it does not matter)
  3. Working in GCC (Kuwait specifically)

Here we need to understand the deficiencies for Eligibility first:

  1. Lacking 6 semester hours in Upper [Division] Accounting
  2. Lacking 3 semester hours in Taxation
  3. Time limits and durations

Please note, I will provide the guidance first and then the time line will be defined later i.e. what to do when.

Step 1 : Complete Education Requirements

To overcome this education deficiency, you may need to do certain courses from an accredited college or university. For the details you may visit this link.

I personally prefer University of North Alabama (UNA). The details are in this link. As discussed with evaluator and personally I went with UNA for the following reasons:

  • 3 courses for US$ 1,425 (US$ 475 each for 3 credit hours). Other colleges were relatively high
  • Accepted by NASBA
  • The course outline is the same as CPAexcel, which I feel is one of the best Review course of CPA, thus while studying these courses, you are studying for your CPA. Two birds with one stone ๐Ÿ™‚

In order to complete the credit hours, you would need to complete the below 3 courses:

  • AC 361P. (3 credit hours) Financial Reporting I.
  • AC 462P. (3 credit hours) Federal Income Taxation I.
  • AC 463P. (3 credit hours) Financial Statement Auditing

You would be wondering why auditing, because it was recommended to me by NASBA evaluator, as in Bachelors, Audit we studied was based on International Standards on Auditing (ISA) however, they consider US Generally Accepted Auditing Standards (GAAS) for eligibility.

By completing these 3 courses, you would be good to go for education side. As per my experience, it would take 6 to 9 weeks to complete these courses (based on work and other commitments). You would need to go and check for the date of entrance, course completion dates, syllabus of these courses, passing scores, forms submission etc through their website.

Step 2: Education Evaluation

The Bachelor of Commerce degree has to be evaluated by the authorized evaluator only. In case of Montana, Foreign Academic Credentials Service, Inc. (FASC) is the only evaluator they accept.

Please note that you need to send your original documents to FACS and they take 6 to 8 weeks (and 99% more than 8 weeks) to send the evaluation to Montana Board. Good thing is they take care of the originals well, so do not worry. The documents required are mentioned on their website along with the fee structure.

Stephanie’s update: Montana has now switched to NIES (NASBA International Evaluation Services) NIES is much faster but more expensive.

Step 3: Forms from Montana Board

You need to register on NASBA website for the application. While you are going to apply on Montana Board, you would need to fill in some forms / affidavits and send these to them after applying.

The issue is that 2 out of 4 forms needed to be notarized. Now, in Kuwait, there are no public notarization rules thus it was an issue for me to get these notarize from here.

Good thing is you may get it notarized from Pakistan itself, which will save your time, efforts and lots of money. So make sure that these forms are notarized prior to sending it to Montana Board. You can get these forms from the Login and from the link here.

Time Management

Phew!!! Thatโ€™s a lot of work. However, thatโ€™s not all. You need to make sure all these documents are with the Board within 30 days of application. To get this right, you need to work backwards. 30 days is the rule for application and your documents will be in your file for 1 year, so do not worry. However, if they do not receive these documents within 30 days of application, then your application fees shall be forfeited and you would be considered ineligible.

To understand the time management, let’s consider an example. Assume you applied on Montana Board on 20 December 2014 and all the requirements need to be with the Board prior to 20 January 2015. (30 days of application).

As FACS takes at least 8 weeks for the evaluation, you should consider sending them the documents by 31 October 2014. I would recommend sending it by 15 โ€“ 20 October 2014. As soon as they receive your documents, they will confirm to you for the receipt email. As soon as they dispatch the evaluation and your documents, they will inform the same to you too.

[Stephanie’s note: thankfully NIES is much faster, typically 1-2 weeks but please double check with them before hand]

UNA Fall 2014 Semester is open till 31 October 2014, means you need to submit your respective forms with UNA by 31 October 2014. I would recommend sending these forms to them on the same date i.e. 15 โ€“ 20 October 2014. The course should be completed by 5 December 2014 and they announce the results after 10 working days, i.e. by 19 December 2014. They would send your transcript to Montana Board by the same date or day after.

Both FASC evaluation and UNA transcripts are received by Montana Board within 1 โ€“ 2 working days. In the end, you may arrange to send the Montana Board forms to them by 12 December 2014, so they shall receive the details within 3-4 working days.

VOLLA!!! Insha Allah you shall receive your trophy (Notice to Schedule) within a week or so. Only after NTS, you shall apply for International testing.

Please note that the above example is just for the understanding purpose and there may be a few days up and down, but make sure you do not miss 30-day window.

Why Alaska?

For qualified CAs and ACCAs, Alaska still accept CA and ACCA as academic qualification. Thus you may need to visit Alaska page on NASBA for details. With respect to the evaluator, Educational Records Evaluation Services (ERES) accepts scanned copies of transcripts. You need to visit their website and get more information from there itself.

I cannot help much on this as I am not very sure of the proceedings on this. However, it was told to me that this is the best available option if you are a qualified CA. But please mind you, Alaska is Tier 1 state, which means; your passing grades will expire if you do not complete the credit hours for licensing.

End Words

I have jotted down what I can think of for the CPA eligibility requirements. I may have missed any step or requirement. If you come across any info or addition, please feel free to add. Moreover, if you still have any confusion, query or further guidance required, please contact me in the comment section below.

I would like to thank the following ladies (weird, no guys) without whom I would not be eligible. You would definitely come across with them if you follow my path ๐Ÿ™‚

1. Stephanie Ng for her immense guidance and website ipassthecpaexam.com, a must to visit for CPA related stuff. I would highly, highly recommend to get her book How to pass the CPA exam (just US$ 27). This book is like the flashlight for all CPA related information and how to proceed with it. It will help you till you pass your exam.

2. Rhonda Willard, NASBA Evaluator, who very patiently replied all my queries and guided me on all steps.

3. Sharon Campbell, Program Director, UNA, who guided me well for all my UNA exam related queries and ensure my transcript is out to NASBA asap ๐Ÿ™‚

I would also recommend to go through CPA Candidate Bulletin
for an understanding of CPA exam. It is the official guidance from NASBA.

I would also recommend to visit the following websites for more information and guidance:

BEST OF LUCK WITH YOUR QUEST!

About the Author Stephanie Ng

I am the author of How to Pass The CPA Exam (published by Wiley) and the publisher of this and several accounting professional exam prep sites

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  • Huda says:

    Good job Moid

  • Syed Hammad Raza says:

    Dear Moid,

    Very useful information.

    I am CA finalist (1999) with 2 years B.com (1994) and having PIFPA degree (2008) living and working in Dubai. I have been told by Baker people there is no way I can go for CPA due to credit hours. But after this valuable information I would defiantly try my luck. I plan to migrate to US in next 4/5 years time (brother sponsorship) and CPA would added advantage finding a suitable job there.

    Thanks & regards
    Hammad

  • Shahid Hashmi says:

    I am looking for a US certified CPA to be located in Karachi. Do you have any recommendations as to where I should look to find one.

    • Stephanie Ng says:

      Hi Shahid, hmm, no idea. Maybe the Big 4?

      • Osama says:

        Hi Stephanie / Moid

        I am a ACA from Pakistan, and currently looking for establishing eligibility to appear for CPA exams. Kindly recommend the foreign evaluator I should use and whether only ACA will be sufficient to meet the 120 credit hours requirement (as i have no B.Com or M.Com).

  • adil sher khan says:

    i am bacholor in commerce from Pakistan and wana become CPA .what is the requirement and how can be eligible for the become CPA.I have also pass ca part 1 from charterd accountant of pakistan with 4 year article with chartered firm.

    adil sher khan

  • CPA Candidate says:

    Hey,

    This is so enlightening. I was looking for guidance like this from Pakistan’s perspective. I have one question though. If we go for Alaska, then are other states eliminated? Meaning i can only work in Alaska and in other states my CPA would not be worth much. Also how can we complete the credit hours?

  • javed iqbal says:

    Pakistan is not included in ‘international testing centre eligibility table’, pl see https://media.nasba.org/files/2011/02/International_Testing_Center_Eligibility_Table_093014.pdf,
    does this mean that pakistani aspirants are not eligible to appear in the cpa examination

    • Stephanie Ng says:

      Hi Javed, it means that Pakistani candidates are required to arrange necessarily visa and travel to the US for the exam. Regards, Stephanie

  • Nimra Ehsan says:

    I am doing CA from pakistan through icap but after my CA inter i will be going back to America and decided to go for Cpa. Am i eligible for this or not?

  • Zeeshan Qureshi says:

    Hello,

    I have following degrees/certificates:

    – Bachelors Degree in commerce (2 Years)
    – MBA Finance (2 Years)
    – CA Foundation certificate
    – 5 year training from PWC pakistan

    am i eligible for CPA?

    Also, i am currently based in saudia on my wife iqama as she is a doctor. Will i be considered long term resident or will i have to travel to US to appear in CPA exam.

    Kind Regards
    Zeeshan

    • Stephanie Ng says:

      Hi Zeeshan, it is possible but even if they consider this equivalent to a 4-year degree, you may still need to fulfill the extra 30 credit hours to reach the 150-hour requirement. For details, please refer to this page: https://ipassthecpaexam.com/cpa-education-requirements/

      I am not sure how they define long-term resident. You may want to ask NASBA or someone with knowledge in visa issues in your area. Good luck!

  • Abid Rao says:

    I am ACCA member, and doing job in qatar. Can you tell me that i am eligible for the CPA registration and what will be the process of registration.

  • Abid Farooq says:

    Hello,

    I have the following degree

    1 Bachelor of Commerce (2 Years)
    2.Master of Commerce (2 years)

    Can i get 150 Credential Hours from Montana State

    am also working in Saudi Arabia and have 10 years experiences

  • Salamat abbasi says:

    I did 2 year b.com and 2;year m.com.am I eligible for cpa?if not what I can do.

  • Faisal says:

    Dear Stephanie,

    I have the qualifications.

    1. BBA (Hons) Major in Finance – 4 Years
    2. MBA – Finance – 2 Years

    I experience in banking and administration. M i eligible to take CPA ?

    Also can pakistani Candidates take the exam in UAE ?

    • Stephanie Ng says:

      Hi Faisal,
      I believe it’s good in terms of degree requirements, but you’ll have to check if you have enough accounting credit hours. This can be obtained via non-degree courses in case you don’t have enough.

      I am afraid the agreement of allowing candidates to take the exam in the middle East only covers Indian candidates, but you may want to double check with NASBA for sure. Regards, Stephanie

  • Amer Hussain says:

    Are these educational requirements for 14 years of B.Com degree?

  • ahmad says:

    Dear Stephanie,

    i am a
    qualified ACCA
    masters in economics
    b,com
    ca inter
    cpa pakistan

    what is my eligibility chances for cpa usa?

  • SHOOTI says:

    Hi Stephanie
    First of all thanks for all the information you have provided on this website.

    I have the following education:

    1. CA finalist (Pakistan)
    2. BCom. from Pakistan (2 years)
    3. 4 open study courses (Canada) – (12 credits in total)

    I am a Canadian citizen now and live in Canada.

    Do you think \Montana state will accept my credit hours from Canada? Will I be able to register with Montana state?

    Thanks
    Shooti

  • Adnan Khalid says:

    Hi Stephanie,
    Thanks for providing such valuable information regarding CPA. I have done bachelor of commerce and Masters of Business Administration. My masters was of 90 credit hours but i’m not sure if the total number of credit hours equals to 150. Do you think i should register for some courses so that i meet up to the required number of credit hours for CPA?

    Regards,
    Adnan

  • Solomon Longston says:

    Hi,
    I have done C.A inter from Pakistan can u tell how i can apply for CPA?
    Regards,
    Solomon Longston

  • Suzanna says:

    hi
    im currently studying CA in Pakistan can ny of you guide me how it can be continued in states. i have completed AFC . do i have to start all over again or some equivalence will be needed. im totally lost.

  • Muhammad Shayan says:

    Hi,

    I am Pakistan Nationality and currently working in Dubai.
    I want to boost my expertise and knowledge in the area of finance for which I want to go for CPA.
    After getting information from the different institutes, I found that there are many countries offering CPA.
    I am not able to decide in which CPA I should take admission CPA from USA or CPA from Pakistan.
    If I take admission in CPA from USA and after completion, if I plan to go back to Pakistan,
    1) Is CPA from USA has worth in Pakistan?
    2) Is there a major difference between CPA from USA & CPA from Pakistan?
    I would need your valuable assistance and guidance as I am not able to decide on my own.

    Awaiting for your kind input.

    Muhammad Shayan.

  • arzoo says:

    Hello!

    How is it going? I’ve got B Com (Pakistan), Bsc Applied Accounting( Oxford Brookes, UK),, MBA (Financial Management (UoW,, UK and ACCA (Finalist). Am I eligible for CPA. Thanking you in anticipation.

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