US CPA Exam for Hong Kong Accountants: Here’s the Fast Track

cpa exam for hong kong accountantsHello! We are excited to help Hong Kong candidates interested in the US CPA qualification.

Please click a link below so I can figure out the best way to help:

US CPA Exam for Hong Kong Candidates (with HKICPA Membership)

If you are an accountant and a member of the Hong Kong Institute of Certified Public Accountants (HKICPA), you are in luck because it has become so much easier to become a US CPA thanks to a recent reciprocity agreement.

Background Information

Before the agreement, candidates from Hong Kong have to go through a complicated qualifying process to sit for the exam.

Unlike most countries, the US CPA license is not granted by a single entity but instead by each State Board of Accountancy from the 55 states and jurisdictions. Each state has slightly different CPA exam and licensing requirements which is very confusing for non-US candidates.

With the reciprocal agreement in place, qualifying HK candidates no longer need to:

  • Face the uncertainty of whether they can get qualified;
  • Get their transcripts evaluated by credential evaluation agencies, which can be a big hassle.

Having said that, they still need to:

  • Pick a state to register for the exam;
  • Fulfill the experience requirements of the state board to ultimately get the license.

Reciprocity Between US CPA and HK CPA

In October 2011, the US International Qualifications Appraisal Board (IQAB) and HKICPA entered into a 5-year MRA (Mutual Recognition Agreement) that allows reciprocity between the two accounting bodies. The agreement will be in force until 31 October 2017.

HKICPA members can now enjoy a fast track to get the US CPA license. Here is a comparison between the standard steps to become a US CPA vs the fast track:

Standard Procedure “Fast Track” Procedure
1. Education Requirements
  • Minimum 4-year bachelor degree and in most cases, 150 credit hours.
  • Must go through credential evaluation agencies to evaluate non-US transcripts
  • Bachelor degree recognized by HKICPA
  • Complete Qualification Program (QP) offered by HKICPA
2. Exam Requirements
  • Uniform CPA exam
  • 4 parts totaling 14 hours
  • IQEX
  • 1 part totaling 3 hours
3. Experience Requirements
  • Depend on state, but typically 1-2 years of relevant experience
  • Experience to be verified by US CPA or “equivalent” (may or may not include HK CPA, depend on the state)
  • 3 years of relevant working experience
  • Experience to be verified by US CPA or HK CPA


1. I am from Hong Kong but not a member of HKICPA. Can I get on the fast track?

No, only HKICPA member can enjoy this benefit. Please see information below for non-members.

2. I am a member of HKICPA but I didn’t complete the Qualifying Program (QP). Can I get on the fast track?

Yes if you are a HKICPA on or before December 31, 2001.

3. I am qualified for the fast track but I want to take the Uniform CPA exam instead of this IQEX that I have never heard of. Can I do it?

Yes, but it’s rather silly because IQEX has one exam part vs 4 parts in the standard exam.

4. Can I sit for the IQEX in Hong Kong?

No, at least not at this stage. IQEX exam is held in prometric centers in US and Canada.

9 Steps To Get Your US CPA License With IQEX

  1. Download the IQEX application form from NASBA during the application period from July to August
  2. Obtain Letter of Good Standing from HKICPA
  3. Wait to receive your NTS (Notice to Schedule, i.e. your admission number) from NASBA
  4. Schedule the exam at a prometric center
  5. Study and take IQEX, available two months out of each quarter
  6. Wait for the results (around 20 days after the exam)
  7. Once you pass, pick a state that accepts IQEX candidates
  8. Fulfill the experience required by the state and get the experience verified by either US or HK CPAs
  9. Apply for your wall certificate and AICPA membership. Done!

Do You Have More Information On IQEX?

* * *

US CPA Exam for Hong Kong Candidates (Non HKICPA Members)

The process is more complicated but no worries, it is not the end of the world. What you need to do is to register through a state in the US and go through the Uniform CPA exam.

Now that Hong Kong has switched to the 4-year system at the university level, it will make the qualifying process much easier. Having said that you may still need to make up for some classes to accumulate the required 150 credit hours (in general, it means 5 years worth of study).

If you graduate before the switch and had a 3-year bachelor degree, you might want to contact Leslie-Anne Rogers who has the experience in helping out international candidates.

12 Steps to Get Your US CPA License though the Uniform CPA Exam

  1. Pick a state that fits your educational background and working experience. Each state has slightly different rules on these requirements.
  2. Send your transcripts to one of the credential evaluation agencies for evaluation. It takes any time from 1 business day (super express) to 8 weeks.
  3. Fill in the application form from your chosen state at the same time.
  4. Wait to receive your NTS (Notice to Schedule, i.e. your admission number) from NASBA
  5. Schedule the exam at a prometric center
  6. Select a CPA review course and start studying
  7. Apply for US visa if required, and arrange travel and accommodation
  8. Take the Uniform CPA Exam
  9. Wait for the results
  10. Depending on the state, you may need to take a CPA ethics exam after passing the Uniform CPA exam
  11. Fulfill the experience required by the state and get the experience verified by US CPA or equivalent
  12. Apply for your wall certificate and AICPA membership. Done!

Sounds like a lot of work even before studying. Can you help me with the application process?

Certainly, but read these articles and narrow down the searches before contacting me:

Got A Question?

All you need is to sign up for this (also free) newsletter specifically written for you as an international candidate so you can learn about how to proceed efficiently towards your goal — getting the most recognized and prestigious CPA qualification in the world.

Feel free to learn more about this CPA exam mini-course here before signing up.

* Photo courtesy of Harry Lawford via creative commons

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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  • Michelle says:

    Hi Stephenie,

    Nice to have your website as it is so useful! I am a HKICPA from Hong Kong, and would move to the US. I would like to apply for CPA license in Washington. May I know if the license can be used in New York state for practising?

    Thank you very much!

    Best regards,

  • Michelle says:

    Thanks a lot Stephanie! Also, I noticed that the format of REG will be changed in Q2 2017. I am wondering if the IQEX will be changed accordingly as well?

    Thanks so much~~

    • Stephanie Ng says:

      Hi Michelle, good question!
      I would think so but let’s wait for NASBA’s confirmation. I just sent them an email. Cheers, Stephanie

  • Michelle says:

    Dear Stephanie,

    Noted and thanks so much!! 😀

    Best regards,

  • Vanessa says:

    Hi Stephanie,

    Thank you for sharing the informative article, which is very helpful. I am a CPA licensed in Hong Kong through the QP program. I am now in the US and I plan to sit for IQEX in March 2017, before the new exam format is launched. If I am lucky to pass IQEX, I would like to apply for the CPA license with the state of Texas.

    However, I am currently working in the credit analysis field with a bank in Texas, instead of a CPA firm. Can my prior working experience in Hong Kong certified by my home institute, HKICPA, be counted? You mentioned in the article that HK CPAs can also certify relevant experience. Would you mind providing more details on this? Thank you very much!

    Kind regards,

    • Stephanie Ng says:

      Hi Vanessa, thanks for your note. It really depends on the license requirement of Texas. I am not familiar with TX as it is not a popular state for international candidates (heard they have strict rules), but check to see if they accept “CPA or equivalent” as verifier. Also, make sure by equivalent, they include Hong Kong CPAs. This is because traditionally, people only see Canadian and Australian CA as equivalent. The MRA with HK is relatively new (well, 5 years, but considered new in this industry) and we need to make sure the TX state board passed some sort of rules to include HK CPA as valid verifier.

      Hope it helps! Stephanie

  • Michelle says:

    Hi Stephanie,

    I failed the IQEX in just now… And is going to take it again under the New Exam after Q2… May I know if it is okay for me to prepare the exam based on Wiley’s study guide in January 2016, and referred to the new Blueprint? As I don’t want to buy a new book haha….

    Thanks so much for your advice! 🙂

  • Connie says:

    Hi Stephanie,

    I already passed the iqex exam and would like to apply the license in California. Back in the time, we only need to compete a 3 year course for our bachelor degree. Do you know any evaluation company is more familiar in evaluating it to a full degree program (120 credits) program?

    Thank you for your help!


  • Mandy Li says:

    Hi Stephanie,

    I’ve just join the HKICPA student member and need to take one more course to enable sit for module B exam (will finish it ASAP). Can I enjoy the fast track? And what are the steps for taking the exam? Only the IQEX or 4 modules? Thanks so much for your advice.

    Best regards,

  • Robbie says:

    Hi Stephanie,

    I notice that the MRA between HKCIPA and AICPA is expiring in Oct 2017, wondering if there is any news you heard regarding the renewal of it? If it is not going to be renewed, does it mean that, before the expiry date, i have to completed (i) registration to the IQEX; (ii) and passed IQEX exam; or (iii) registration membership with AICPA? Thanks!

    Regards, Robbie

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