Foreign Credential Evaluation for CPA: Here's What I Recommend

Foreign Credential Evaluation for CPA: Here’s What I Recommend

foreign credential evaluation for cpa

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.

Do You Need an Evaluation for CPA?

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.

For example:

  • If you took 100% of your courses in the U.S., then all of your courses are domestic.
  • However, if you went to a college or university outside of the U.S. (regardless of your residency), that coursework is international.
  • Even if you did most of your coursework in the states but spent a semester abroad, those credits you received abroad are considered to be foreign credits and may need to be evaluated.

What’s the CPA Evaluation Process?

The foreign credential evaluation process is not complicated. However, you have several steps to follow. I’ve elaborated on these steps below.

  • First, pick the jurisdiction where you plan to apply for the CPA Exam and license. Education requirements can vary between jurisdictions, so this first step is critical.
  • Second, find out what foreign credential agencies your jurisdiction uses. You can check out NASBA’s website for more information.
  • Once you pick an agency, learn what documents you need to submit to them for your evaluation. Items might include original transcripts, a copy of your ID or passport. Plus, you might need an English translation of non-English documents.
  • Submit your documents and pay your fees.

After you’ve submitted all of your required documents, the agency will take it from there.

  • The agency will access your education and college courses. Then, they will determine if your international education and courses are equivalent to ones in the United States.
  • Next, the agency will send a report to your state board (or its designee).
  • And finally, your state board will contact you with their findings. If your international education meets their standards, you’re good to go and can apply for the CPA Exam. Otherwise, if you need a few more college credits, they will let you know, too.

How to Select Foreign Credential Evaluation for CPA

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:

  • Each state has its own list of approved CPA transcript assessment agencies — you don’t want to pay for an evaluation service report that is not recognized by your state board. For instance, some states like California, Florida, Ohio, and Oklahoma accept lots of agencies. But others—Alaska, Arizona, CNMI, and Georgia are examples—only accept NIES, the NASBA transcript evaluation
  • Each state board has slightly different qualifying rules and CPA requirements. Therefore, the agency needs to know your jurisdiction before starting a review.

Once you settle on a state and get the list of approved agencies, you can pick one based on:

  1. CPA evaluation fees
  2. Turnaround time
  3. Reputation

1. CPA Evaluation Fees

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.

2. Turnaround Time

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.

3. Reputation

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.

Tips on Foreign Credential Evaluation Process

1. Submitting the Documents for CPA Board Evaluation

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.

2. Translation of Documents

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.

3. Sending Extra Info to Expedite the Process

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.

4. Estimating the Turnaround Time

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.

5. Tracking the Progress

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.

What if I Don’t Know Which State to Register?

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.

NIES and NASBA Transcript Evaluation

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.

NIES Services and Fees

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.)

International Credential Evaluation for CPA Examination and/or Licensure: $225

  • Reviews the colleges/universities you attended and when and the diploma or credentials you received. Plus, the NIES report will include the U.S. equivalent to your foreign degree.

Undecided Jurisdiction Evaluation for CPA Examination and/or Licensure: $350

  • NIES can help you pick the right jurisdiction for your CPA license based on each state’s education, residency, and social security number requirements.
  • Your NIES report will include recommendations for up to three jurisdictions.
  • Plus, if you don’t meet any board’s education requirements, NIES will tell you that, too. However, this review doesn’t replace the international credential evaluation that you’ll still need for your CPA Exam application. To clarify, this service only identifies possible fits for your unique circumstances.

Non-Accredited Domestic Credential Evaluation for CPA Examination and/or Licensure: $250

  • Many colleges and universities have academic programs accredited by a body approved by the U.S. Department of Education. But others don’t. So, if you have coursework from an unaccredited school, you should consider having your transcript reviewed. Why? Well, some jurisdictions don’t accept coursework from non-accredited schools. And others only count your courses if you have your transcript reviewed.
  • However, NIES only offers this service for select jurisdictions. Therefore, it’s best to check with NIES if you have questions.

Change in Jurisdiction Evaluation for CPA Examination and/or Licensure: $120

  • This service is for candidates who have an evaluation for one jurisdiction. (Because remember: they are jurisdiction-specific.) But then, they change their mind and want to take the CPA Exam in a different jurisdiction.

For Your Further Reading

Other Questions?

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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About the Author Stephanie Ng

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!

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