Is it possible to become a CPA for H4 visa holders?
I have lots of readers who are H4 visa holders. Many of you are highly educated professionals who follow their spouse to the United States for a better future for your family. Since you aren’t allowed to work (for now, at least), wouldn’t it be nice to study for the CPA exam?
In order to become a CPA, the first step is to get qualified for the exam. It isn’t a straightforward path for H4 visa holders. Here are two common difficulties:
Let’s see how we can overcome these obstacles.
The CPA is a regulated industry, and SSN is the best way for the state board to track and regulate its licensees. Therefore, most states require their CPA exam candidates to submit their SSNs in the application form.
What is less known is that in some cases, state board allow exemption to this rule if there is a valid reason. Many state boards request that you write a letter to explain the situation, while others may have an existing waiver form or an affidavit to fill in. They don’t usually specify this in their rules (because not many candidates fall into this category). You need to take the initiative to ask, and double check the procedure by email.
Because of this, the issue of SSN is not a big concern.
As part of the “3E”, candidates need to fulfill the experience requirement in order to get the license. 1-2 years are required, and in most cases, this experience must be supervised and verified by an active US CPA.
This makes things exceedingly inconvenient for H4 visa holders because the previous experience (in your home country) is not likely to have been supervised by a US CPA, and then now that you are in the US, you are not allowed to work.
Since May 26, 2015, certain H4 visa holders (those with H1-B spouse seeking employment based lawful permanent resident (LPR) status) have been allowed to accept employment in the US.
For those who don’t fall into this category, there are still solutions:
Solution #1: Check out NASBA Experience Verification Service
This service was launched in April 2016 specifically for those who have difficulty finding a licensed CPA to sign off on their experience requirement.
It’s available in selected states including Guam, Montana, Virginia and Washington, and it costs $500 for domestic candidates and $700 for international candidates. Please click on this link for details.
Solution #2: Select a state that doesn’t require the verifier to be your supervisor
One of the solutions is to select a state that allows verification instead of strictly supervision of experience. Montana and Washington are two examples. There are other states, but they may not offer SSN waivers.
For example, if you used to work as a public accountant in India and you have someone whom you know who are a US CPA, then you can ask him/her to verify your previous experience for you. The same works for Washington but this verifier must be a US CPA licensee in good standing for at least 5 years.
Solution #3: Select a state that doesn’t request your verifier to be US CPA
In my opinion, this is a better solution because you will likely able to ask your previous supervisor to verify the experience for you. North Dakota offers this flexibility. There are other states with similar rules (e.g. Virginia) but they strictly require SSN.
Solution #4: Volunteer to gain experience in the meantime.
Our blogger Neha is a H4 visa holder and she faced the same issue after passing her CPA exam. Read her story and find out the issue and her solution.
Other obstacles for CPA for H4 visa holders include lacking the credit hours to fulfill the 150 credit hour rule, or that there are not enough accounting courses, especially for states that only count upper-division (intermediate/advanced) courses.
If you are determined to get the CPA qualification, you can first work on fulfilling the 150 credit and/or the accounting credit hours first. The articles below may help you get started:
If you have other questions, or you have stories to share, drop me a note below or on my Facebook page. I will try my best to help.
I am the author of How to Pass The CPA Exam (published by Wiley), and I also passed all 4 sections of the CPA Exam on my first try. Additionally, I have led webinars, such as for the Institute of Management Accountants, authored featured articles on websites like Going Concern and AccountingWeb, and I'm also the CFO for the charity New Sight. Finally, I have created other accounting certification websites to help mentor non-CPA candidates. I have already mentored thousands of CPA, CMA, CIA, EA, and CFA candidates, and I can help you too!