US CPA Exam for Filipinos: Complete Guide to Get Your License

US CPA Exam for Filipinos: Complete Guide to Get Your License

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us cpa exam for Filipinos

This page is dedicated to Filipino accountants who want to obtain a US CPA license.

If you are looking for something else, see if this is useful:

  • I am an American CPA looking for job opportunities in the Philippines
  • I am a Filipino looking for help in passing the CPA Board Exam in the Philippines

US CPA Exam for Filipinos: An Introduction

Are you one of the Philippine-licensed CPAs who aspires to work abroad as a CPA but can’t use your local license in other countries?

While it is frustrating that Filipino CPAs don’t have reciprocal recognition from the US, getting the US CPA license is still a rewarding and achievable goal.

You are Smart!

I would like to congratulate you on passing the CPA Board Exam in the Philippines. I heard it is one of the most difficult professional exams in your country. Passing rate is typically less than 50%.

Why US CPA?

My CPA exam site gets a lot of traffic from the Philippines so I bet many of you are seriously thinking about the US CPA. If you…

  • work in Big 4 with the aspiration to transfer to different countries;
  • work in multi-national companies especially the ones headquartered in the US; and
  • plan to work abroad someday…

… then the US CPA qualification is useful.

Basic Requirements

To get the CPA license, all candidates need to fulfill the “3E”, that is, Education, Exam and Experience. Generally speaking, you need to:

  • Obtain a 4-year bachelor degree AND accumulate 150 credit hours
  • Pass the 4 parts of the CPA exam within 18 months
  • Get your relevant experience properly verified

Detailed Steps

1. Determine Your Eligibility

In the US, a typical accounting student goes through 4 years of university (or what is commonly known as “college”) plus one year of Master’s degree in accounting. 1 year of studying generally means 30 credit hours, so a 4-year and 5-year degree roughly translates to 120 and 150 credit hours respectively.

The good news is that the Philippines has the same 4-year bachelor program. Since you have to go through additional years for the Masters’ Degree, fulfilling the150 hours credit should not be an issue for you.

2. Pick a State and Register for the CPA Exam

Since the US CPA license is granted by individual states instead of a centralized agency, you have to choose a state board before registering for the exam.

Each state has slightly different rules but you can find a summary of the exam requirements by state here. I have also written an article on the popular states favored by international candidate for your reference.

3. Send Transcripts to Evaluation Agencies

Once you have chosen a State Board, the next step is to send your transcripts to a “foreign credential evaluation agency”.

Note: If you get part or all the educational credits from a US school, then for this part of the education you don’t need to go through the evaluators but you’ll need to ask this US school to send the transcript to the State Board directly. Please refer to the instruction on the CPA exam application form.

4. Get Approved for the Exam

Once you are approved to sit for the exam, you will receive a Notice To Schedule (NTS) which will allow you to schedule your exam in exam sites known as the prometric center.

You will have to fly to a US jurisdiction for the exam, but since Guam is so close to I don’t think this is an issue.

For your information, there are a few non-US prometric centers, but only citizens or long-term resident in Japan, Brazil, India and in Middle Eastern countries are qualified.

5. Study for the Exam

In terms of the CPA exam, it is likely the easiest step for international candidates. At least it is something within your control. If you need help I’d suggest that you take a review course from one of these Top 10 CPA review courses.

Once you complete the 4 parts of the exam, most states require that you take the ethics exam but this is much easier in comparison.

6. Fulfill the Experience Requirements

Most states require 1 to 2 years of experience. The challenge is that the State Boards only recognize “relevant” experience that is “properly verified”.

Some states only recognize public accounting i.e. auditing or related work in a CPA firm. If you work in the corporate, non-profit organization and non-US government agencies your experience cannot be counted.

IMPORTANT: when you pick a state to get qualified for the exam, this is an important consideration.

7. Verify Your Experience

All experience will have to be verified by a US CPA who keep his/her license active during the time you work(ed) for him/her.

Most states require that this person to be your direct supervisor. Some states allow CPA “or equivalent”, which usually means a Canadian CA or Australian CA, but for the exact definition of this equivalency you will have to check with your State Board.

If you have previous working experience in the Philippines, unless you worked under a US CPA (or for some states, CAs from the “reciprocal countries” e.g. Canada and Australia) your experience cannot be counted. I know it is frustrating but an important note to remember.

FAQ

1. I’m a Filipino, how do I become a U.S. CPA Licensee even if I am not a US Citizen?

Most states allow non-US resident/citizen to apply for the CPA exam and license. Please go to this page for more info on the application procedure.

2. Which credential evaluator should I use?

The State Board of your chosen state should indicate which evaluators you can pick from. Some allow you to choose anyone that is a member of the evaluators’ association (i.e. NACES), while others only recognizes one. Please double check the list in the application form for details.

3. How many credit hours do you think I can get?

It depends on the subjects you have taken at the university. To go further, you will have to make some commitment i.e. to pay the evaluators for a professional evaluation. It costs anywhere from ~ $150-200.

Express service is available but will cost multiples of that. Some states offer pre-evaluation service which will indicate which courses you lack. I think it is a good idea if you aren’t sure whether you can get qualified for that state.

4. Which State Should I Apply?

You can apply to any state that you are qualified in terms of the education requirements. It is also wise to pick a state that requires more flexible or even no working experience requirements.

5. Illinois is the most favorable state for me in terms of requirements, but I want to take the exam in Guam. What to do?

You are allowed to take the exam in a state that is not your registered state. For example, if you register through Illinois state board but want to sit for the exam in Guam, it’s totally fine.

I am All Confused… Can You Help Me?

If you are serious about taking the US CPA exam, I welcome you to join our community by signing up for my free mini course. You will get the basics on CPA exam application, registration procedure, what to do (and not to do) during the process:

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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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