Question: I did not get my degree in the US, so do I need a CPA evaluation or a foreign credential evaluation? How do I know if my coursework fits the educational requirements for the CPA Exam?
Answer: Get a foreign academic credential evaluation for your CPA education. This will ensure you meet your jurisdiction’s academic requirements.
Here is an overview of what a CPA evaluation does, why you might need one, and how to pick the right CPA transcript evaluation. Plus, many states are going with a specific NASBA transcript evaluation service, so I’ll fill you in about that. I’ll also go over how to check your CPA central evaluate status.
Note: The Texas board of accountancy completes CPA credit evaluation in-house. Therefore, Texas candidates do not need to go through these third-party evaluation agencies.
Don’t like videos? Here is the same information in text format.
If any of your academic coursework was completed outside of the United States, those courses are considered to be “international” or “non-domestic.” And therefore, you will need an evaluation if any of your education hours were obtained via international courses. Basically, an evaluation ensures that those credits are equivalent to US-based education credits.
The foreign credential evaluation process is not complicated. However, you have several steps to follow. I’ve elaborated on these steps below.
After you’ve submitted all of your required documents, the agency will take it from there.
Before you contact a CPA foreign education evaluation agency, you need to select the state where you plan to register for your exam. There are two reasons:
Once you settle on a state and get the list of approved agencies, you can pick one based on:
The fee for a foreign credential evaluation ranges from $100 to $300. Moreover, the price difference is closely correlated to turnaround time. For example, if you choose NIES evaluation, the company is fast but it’s expensive. The FACS evaluation agency is one of the most affordable charging $100 for most states, but it takes around 6 weeks.
Most state boards require a “course-by-course” CPA evaluation of foreign credentials. This is different from the “general evaluation” that some agencies offer. Please carefully read the fee schedule when comparing the CPA examination and licensure evaluation fees.
Companies sometimes have rush services available but expect to add another $100 or so to the price tag. With proper planning, you can avoid this extra cost.
The number of days required to produce a foreign credential evaluation report varies considerably between agencies. Most agencies have a 2 week turnaround time. However, the timeframe can vary from 5 business days to 8+ weeks.
The CPA evaluation process is both an art and a science. It is possible that certain evaluators may give you more credit hours than others.
Having said that, the evaluation results from one company to another should not substantially differ. After all, evaluators run the risk of getting disqualified per CPA board evaluation standards in many jurisdictions. Because of this, I personally do not recommend an agency based on how “lenient” it interprets your transcripts.
I do, however, recommend agencies that have better customer service. Besides, a friendly evaluator makes your life much easier during the exam application process. You can take a look at my findings at the end of this post.
Most foreign credential evaluation agencies require candidates to send in their original or official transcripts. By original, they mean the transcripts that your school sent to you in a sealed envelope. And by official, they mean a copy (either the original or a certified copy) sent directly from your school to the agency. In fact, some agencies now only accept documents that your school directly submits to them. But thankfully, these transactions can often occur online now. And most college and university registrars have online portals for requesting transcripts.
In most cases, state boards set requirements about transcripts. For example, the California Board of Accountancy (CBA) asks evaluators to issue a report only if the candidate supplies an original transcript. So be sure to note this detail to get your CBA-approved foreign credentials.
I understand that in some countries, it is impossible to get additional copies of your transcript. Therefore, when you’re picking an agency, customer service is very important. Because in most cases, a good evaluator can suggest a way to work around this issue
Note: If your current name is different from the name on your transcript, you need supporting documentation to show the reason for the name change. For example, maybe you changed your name when you got married. In that case, you’ll need a marriage certificate to show why you have a new last name.
If your transcript was issued in a language other than English, a word-for-word translation is required for your evaluation for the NASBA CPA Exam.
I know of a few options if you need to have your transcript translated. First, you can explore whether your evaluation agency has an in-house translation service. Second, if that isn’t an option, you might be able to have it translated by an official governmental agency. (Some of my readers have had success with this in China.) Third, you can contact a translation service that is a member of the American Translators Association (ATA).
However, it is initially best to check with your foreign credential evaluation agency. And then, you can see if they have a preferred translation service.
Here’s another tip: You can actually send your old course syllabi to your CPA transcript evaluation agency. This way, the agency has full information on the content of your qualifications based on these course outlines. You might consider this tip for your NASBA credit evaluation especially if your courses had vague or misleading titles.
How long will this take? Well, it can take as little as 2 weeks to up to 8 weeks. Plus, your wait doesn’t start until after ALL documents are submitted to your foreign credential evaluation agency.
And rush service is counted in business days. For example, a 2-day rush service takes 2 business days, not including weekends or holidays. Therefore, don’t order a rush service on Friday afternoon and expect progress by Sunday.
Some evaluation agencies have online tracking systems. However, others may only have an email notification service. In contrast, a few do not offer updates. In fact, you have to call them to check on your CPA evaluation. You should take this into consideration if it is important for you to keep track of the progress of your CPA credit evaluation.
If you’ve already checked on each jurisdiction’s CPA requirements, then you know that they really vary from state to state. Therefore, NIES (the NASBA International Evaluation Services agency) offers a service to help international candidates pick a jurisdiction. It’s called the Undecided Jurisdiction Evaluation for CPA Examination and/or Licensure service. You can read more about this special NIES assistance in the next section.
I want to take a few moments to mention NIES, or the NASBA International Evaluation Services. NIES is becoming more and more popular with CPA candidates. Why? Well, they offer high-quality evaluations, relatively low prices, and good customer service. The professionals at NEIS understand the types of academic coursework needed to support a career as a CPA.
In fact, some jurisdictions only accept evaluations for international candidates from NIES. And the list keeps growing. Therefore, you may want to consider NIES if you’re looking for a CPA evaluation of foreign credentials.
To give you an idea of typical CPA evaluation services and fees, here’s a list of what NIES offers. (All fees are in U.S. dollars.)
You are most welcome to sign up for my FREE mini-course designed for international candidates. Learn more about this CPA exam mini-course before signing up.
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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!