CPA for H4 Visa Holders: Common Obstacles and Solutions

CPA for H4 visa holders

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?

CPA for H4 Visa Holders: Common Obstacles

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:

  • No social security number
  • Not able to fulfill the experience requirement, since work supervised by US CPA is required.

Let’s see how we can overcome these obstacles.

1. Social Security Number (SSN)

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.

2. Work Experience

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.

Latest Development

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.

neha-profile-2Solution #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.

If Not Enough Credit Hours…

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.

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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  • Priya says:

    Hi,

    I’m on h4 visa and I have been thinking of doing a CPA certification. I have done M.Com – Finance & Control.

    Since CPA Requires work experience to get the license, I am not able to decide on how to go ahead with this once I pass the CPA exam. Will volunteering for work help me get the license? I live in NJ.

    Appreciate your quick response.

    Thanks,
    Priya

    • Stephanie Ng says:

      Hello Priya,
      Volunteering is only recognized in a couple of states. I don’t have my excel file with me (currently at vacation home) but I dont think NJ allows volunteer work. You can check with NJ for details. The alternative is to go to states such as Washington and Montana where they allow verification of your previous experience by a US CPA who is not your boss. See if this helps. Stephanie

  • Jackelin says:

    Hi,
    I have H4 Visa and will be reaching Texas soon. Is it easy to convert to F1? So that i can pursue CPA and work part time as well.
    I have 6 years of Financing experience in India and a MBA Holder.

    Thanks in Advcance.

    Thanks,
    Jackelin

    • Stephanie Ng says:

      Hi Jackelin, my apologies but I cannot answer questions related to immigrant visa. In any case, I think it might be easier to work out a plan based on your current visa status. Regards, Stephanie

  • Pallavi says:

    Hi Stephanie,

    Thank u for the information that have been shared in here. I’m one of the CMA from India who is moving to US on H4 and looking forward to pursue CPA in US. But after doing research from your website i understood that i might not be eligible to proceed with CPA with the restrictions that are applicable to most of the states. Could you please advice me on how to go further. Below are my details:

    1. 6 years of Experience in FP&A.
    2. ICAI (ICWAI) from INDIA and ICSI Inter (Company Secretary)
    3. 3 years Graduation (B.com Taxation) from INDIA.

    Please advice by considering the above points, if i have any option to pursue CPA from any of the US states. I wanted to continue my Job in the corporate field rather than practice by obtaining CPA licence(once i’m legally eligible to work in US).

    Hoping for your reply. Thanking you in advance.

    Regards,
    Pallavi

    • Stephanie Ng says:

      Yes Pallavi, it sounds tough to be honest, because you have more than one obstacles: 3 year instead of 4 year of education, no SSN, and work not supervised by a US CPA (I assume). If you are serious about taking the exam and do have a longer-term plan to stay in the US, meaning there is a potential of switching your H4 to another visa, then you can seek Leslie-Anne’s advice on how state boards look at ICAI + BCOM. You can reach her at https://ipassthecpaexam.com/go/cpaexcel-international/

      Good luck!

    • Deepika says:

      Hi Pallavi,

      I am sailing in the same boat. So have you decided on the further things to do …

      I am as well interested in doing my CPA with the same qualifications from India.

      I am in need of help and want to know how to go forward with this.

      Thanks in Advance

  • Neha R says:

    Hi Pallavi!

    I’d like to add something to what Stephanie advised you above.

    Firstly, check if you are eligible for H4 EAD (work authorization on H4). Simply put, if your husband’s GC process has started, then you may be eligible to work in the US even on H4. The relevant article published by the USCIS to this effect is as under:

    http://www.uscis.gov/working-united-states/temporary-workers/employment-authorization-certain-h-4-dependent-spouses

    Secondly, if that’s not the case, then you might want to explore the option of coming on a F-1 student visa here instead of H4. If there is still time for you to come to the USA (so that you can apply for August session), I would suggest that you start applying to appropriate schools/ colleges in the area you would be living in the US. This would not only help you get additional credits for doing CPA later, but also provide you with work authorization for specified period of time after you are done with your course in the US.

    I was sailing in the same boat as yours and if you like to read more about my story, you can go to the following link:

    https://ipassthecpaexam.com/author/neha-r/

    Hope it helps!

    Regards,
    Neha R

    • Pallavi says:

      Hi Neha,

      Thank you for adding additional comments on my case here. The two possible options which you have suggested here might not work for me at this point of time. I’m travelling to NJ in a couple of weeks.

      Here is my plan:
      1. Apply H1b through my current employer/ Wait for the H4 EAD. Meanwhile i’m planning to complete CPA, seems the possible options for me are less. But i’m working on the same to find out what are best options.

      Regards,
      Pallavi

      • Stephanie Ng says:

        Thanks Pallavi for your sharing. It is really nice for everyone to share their experience and possible options here. Regards, Stephanie

  • shruthi says:

    Hi Neha,
    I have H4 Visa, and i would like to go with CPA education. i am done with B.com and have 6years of experience in India. I am really not understanding how to proceed further to take CPA education in NJ. I am confusing wheather i need to take H1 visa then i go with further education or by having H4 visa i can go with it…please help me to understand it clearly.

    Thank you in advance.

    Regards,
    Shruthi BK

  • Sonali Parekh says:

    Hi Neha,

    I recently moved to Houston a month back. I had 4 years of experience in India but i work for US companies State Street( Boston) and Waste Management (Houston). My husband GC process is already started. I am expecting my EAD this year. For time being i want to pursue CPA in Houston. I did my BBA and PGDFM from India. Texas has many requirements for getting eligible for CPA exams, so is it right if i do CPA from other state that has minimum criteria and then get my license transfer to Texas or i should pursue my CPA in Texas itself.Looking forward for your reply

    Thank You

  • Chaitu says:

    Hi Neha,

    I am holding a H4 visa and recently came to California. I have done B.com in India and also had CA inter. I see from the previous posts that i am not eligible for CPA and require 30 more credit hours. May i know how to achieve that 30 credit hours. Could you please help me with the available options to do my CPA.

  • Riya says:

    Hi,

    I am a Bcom plus MBA(finance n marketing) from India. I worked for around 5 yrs in banking industry. Currently on H4 but my husbands GC process has initiated and i expect EAD by early 2017. My queries are:
    1. I dont have any work experience in accounting,am I eligible to give CPA.
    2. How are the job opp. once i clear CPA and get my EAD?
    3. As I am not a CA like most people here, will CPA be too much for me to handle considering i m out of touch in accounts from last 10 years.
    4. Any suggestions you have for me.

    Thanks
    Riya

  • Ragahvendra says:

    Hi,

    My Wife Passed her CPT and IPCC Group-I in India,Now she is on H4.Can you tell whether she is eligible to write CPA ? She is in Nebraska state and she dont have a SSN.

    She did her B.com in India,but the degree depends on her IPCC Group II results.

  • Pooja Naidu says:

    Hi,

    I have studied B Com , PGDM (full time – Finance and marketing ), CA – Level 1 and have 5 years of work experience with a US MNC.

    I am currently on H4 and expecting my husbands EAD by 2018 mid. I intend to finish the CPA before the EAD is ready.

    Will i still need additional credits ?

    Thanks,
    Pooja

  • Reshma says:

    Hi,
    I am currently living in Seattle and I am on F2 (dependent) Visa. I would like to go with CPA education. i am done with B.com (2010) and MBA (Finance) (2012) in India. I think credit hours would not be a major problem as I have completed MBA. My main concern is weather i can apply for the CPA due to dependent visa? Can i Give the exam and pass because i dont have much job experience also. what should i do? please help me..

    Thank you in advance.

    • Aarthy V says:

      Hi Reshma, I am in the same situation as yours. Did you get any clarification? Could you please share with me if you had any confirmation on this aspect?

  • Sayee says:

    Hi
    I am a qualified chartered accountant from india and have also completed company secretary (Inter).I am a bcom graduate (3years).I am currently teaching finance students here in India.(Self employed).I would be shifting to California next month on h4 dependant visa.I would like to pursue some course related to teaching on h4 or f1 visa and then find a suitable job related to teaching/accounting. What are the possible options available..?Please guide

    Thanks
    Sayee

  • Kinjal Shah says:

    Hi,
    I have cleared my mcom in accountany. But I don’t have relevant experience in accounting rather have experience in human resource.
    I m planning to come to usa on dependent visa and pursue CPA.
    I’M even planning to do a course from a university in seattle which will allow me 1 year opt.
    Can you guide me with how should I proceed.

    • Stephanie Ng says:

      Hi Kinjal, that’s great to know. The easiest path is to get a master’s degree in accounting that is designed for those with non-accounting background. You will then be taking accelerated courses but the good thing is that you’ll learn what you need to know within a year. You will also be able to fulfill the requirements, and at the same time easier to land a job through the school’s career placement center (provided your visa allow you to work). Good luck! Regards, Stephanie

  • Meghashyam says:

    Hello, my spouce is a M.com graduate from India with almost an year experience in India

    She is interested in taking CPA Exam.
    Is she eligible? She is on H4 visa.

    Your response and help is much appreciated
    Thanks much

  • Mouman says:

    Hi Stephanie,

    I am planning to appear for CPA examination from Texas. Currently I am on H4 visa. I am a M. com and MBA ( finance) with 8 years of experience in Multinational banks in Finance.from India. Of which one being US Bank. I am worried, as I am not allowed to work on H4 visa now ,
    will my work experience be considered as qualifying?
    What I understand, qualifying work experience is needed at the time of issuance of of the CPA Certificate after I have passed the CPA Exam , not for appearing the exam? Right?
    Please advise.
    Thanks in advance.

    • Stephanie Ng says:

      Hi Mouman, since you have a graduate degree, I suggest that you go for the non-reporting license from MA state board. You don’t need to get work experience — simply passing the exam is fine. The only difference is that you cannot sign the audit report, but you have the option to upgrade it to full license if you are able to get the necessary experience later. Hope it helps!

  • Amrita Chandarana says:

    Hi,

    I am Chartered Accountant from INDIA and recently moved to California on H4 visa. I dont want to do CPA. I want to do some short term certification course which would be job based . I want to start my job as soon as possible.

    Please tell me which course will be suitable for me. I am having interest in Finance.

    Thank you

    • Stephanie Ng says:

      Hi Amrita,
      I only cover the biggest global certifications… for finance jobs I don’t think certifications are needed. I would instead try to network as much as you can.

      In any case I believe you can’t work with H4 visa so you have plenty of time to get prepared before visa changes.

  • Litesh sharma says:

    Hello stephanie mam
    I’m a new qualified chartered accountant from india.I am a BCOM plus Chartered accountant.Can you please tell me how can I move to US.Which type of visa would be best for me to work in U.S. And I have a plan to do CPA also.Kindly suggest

  • Pooja says:

    Hi Stephanie,

    I have recently shifted to Illinois and i am chartered accountant and company secretary from India with 4 yrs of MNC experience like PwC and PepsiCo.

    I want to apply for CPA and already started process of international evaluation but i have a query that for. e.g if i am eligible for say Virginia or some other state while i reside in Illinois do i have to appear exam from the state i am eligible from?

    Regards,
    Pooja

  • Lubna says:

    Hi Stephanie,

    I am a BCOM graduate from India, studied accounting for 5 years. I also have an Executive MBA degree from Dubai. I am working for a BANK in US, California since a year. Can you please address my below concerns

    1) Will my work experience in USA be considered to get a license. If not, so I wont be able to appear for CPA exam ? What would be the route in this case if a foreign student wants to be a CPA ?
    2) Will I need the additional 30 hour requirement.

    Thanks,
    Lubna

  • Nupur Saini says:

    Hi,

    I’m on h4 visa and I have been thinking of doing either CPA or CFA certification. I have a MBA(finance) degree with 1n half year of experience as a finance executive under a chartered accountant, does that experience counts?
    For pursuing either CPA or CFA certification, is GRE and TOEFEL are necessary?
    Can you please tell me in detail about the full course of CPA.
    Thanx in advace
    Nupur

  • Shweta Singh says:

    Hi Stephanie,

    I am planning to appear for CPA examination from Florida. I will be coming to US on H4 visa in Dec 2017. I am a B. com and have done Pot graduate Programme in Business Management ( finance) with 5 years of experience in Taxation with one of the Big 4 consulting firm. I am worried, as I am not allowed to work on H4 visa now ,
    will my work experience be considered as qualifying?
    What I understand, qualifying work experience is needed at the time of issuance of of the CPA Certificate after I have passed the CPA Exam , not for appearing the exam? Right?
    Please advise.
    Thanks in advance.

  • Riya Agrawal says:

    Hey…
    I am currently on H4 visa. I have already applied and got admitted into the California State Board of Accountancy while i was in India. I came to USA end of Jan 2018. Also, I am ready to give my first paper in 1st week of coming march. I have my NTS in hand already. I have a question regarding the my admission in the exam hall. They say we need two forms of identification and NTS for the entry. I have my Indian passport. Do I need an another form of identification? Or my passport and NTS is enough for the admission in the exam hall?

    Thank You.

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