I get a TON of questions regarding whether an Indian CA can be converted to a CPA in the United States?
Many Indian CPA candidates are B.COM graduates (the equivalent of a secondary education like Bachelors) while others also have their Chartered Accountant license, or CA. Given that the US CPA requirements often require 150 hours of education and a Bachelors degree (4 years in school), can an Indian B.COM graduate or a CA qualify for the US CPA exam?
These are all interesting questions because not long ago Indian CAs came to the United States and quickly got their CPA licenses under the reciprocity rules and were able to practice. However, the governing bodies in the United States have made this a bit more difficult today. Let’s have a look in detail.
As I am from Indian origin and have several friends who were CAs and migrated to the US to become CPAs, I have seen the CA exam and in my honest opinion I feel there are too many similarities between it and the US CPA exam. Moreover, in many ways I feel the Indian CA exam is actually tougher!
All of them had to face the same challenge when they first came to the United States. They needed to qualify under 3 very different US CPA requirements: education, the CPA exam and qualified work experience.
Let’s have a look at what you need to become eligible for the CPA exam in the United States:
- Education: In the US, you need a 4 year Bachelors degree and an additional 30 credits for a total of 150 credits (some States only require 120 credits however)
- CPA Exam: You need to pass all 4 parts of the uniform CPA exam
- Work Experience: You need at least one year of work experience under supervision of an active CPA
Historical US Treatment of Indian B.COM Degree and CA Certificate
The education system in India is different in that the equivalent of a Bachelor degree is the BCOM (B.COM) degree which takes 3 years to complete as opposed to the 4 years for the Bachelor’s degree in the USA. As you can imagine, an Indian B.COM graduate needs to take some more education to qualify for the US CPA requirements.
Not long ago, some States had ways for a B.COM graduate to qualify for the CPA requirements. However, this has been stopped. In the past, a CA licensed was also considered by some States as having an equivalent of a 4 year education. An Indian CA holder therefore used to qualify for the US CPA requirements in some States.
Once the education requirement was fulfilled, a candidate could then site for the US CPA exam. Those who wanted to practice public accounting in the US could also continue on to meet their work experience requirements.
Suggestions for an Indian B.COM Graduate or CA
So what do you do to qualify for the US CPA if you are an Indian B.COM graduate or a CA license holder from India? I have a few recommendations.
If you have a B.COM degree and providing that the State under which you apply for the CPA accepts the credits, get more education (at least one year) to qualify for the US CPA. Better yet, get a 1 year Masters degree. There are a few 120 credit hour CPA States left under which you can try to qualify.
Note: In order to successfully use your previous education in India, you will need to get your Indian education credits evaluated through a Foreign Credit Evaluation process. See below for more details
If you want to apply under a State that requires 150 hours of education, do a 2 year Masters degree like an MBA (Masters in Business Administration). This will give you the full 150 hours of education. And since the requirements state that you need at least a Bachelors degree, a Master degree will certainly qualify as it is higher than a Bachelors degree.
Many Indian B.COM graduates also decide to transfer their education credits to a US college or university, and then continue on to finish another year of schooling, earning a 4 year Bachelors degree and then applying for the US CPA under a 120 credit hour State.
In order to do this successfully, you will need to select a US college or university that is willing to accept your education credits from India and consider a B.COM degree the equivalent of three years of education. You will have to discuss this with the college personally.
Keep in mind that the rules are always changing in every State, so it is best to always check with the State under which you are interested in qualifying for the CPA requirements to see if you can make it work. You can find the contact information for all the State Boards of Accountancy here. Do a self evaluation and determine what you have, and then pick a State that fits your situation the best.
What to do Once You Select a State to Qualify for the CPA Requirements?
Once you complete the education requirements and have selected a State, the next step is to send all your Indian transcripts for the foreign credential evaluation process (FCE). Which FCE agency to choose? Good question.
I have documented everything you need to know here. However, always ask the State first because some of them have specific FCEs they want you to go through.
If you completed some of your education requirements in the US, you may not have to go through the FCE process. Instead, you will have to ask your college or university in the US to send your transcripts to the State Board of Accountancy directly. Contact your State and they can explain how to do this. This is how local US citizens and residents go about the process as well.
So as you can see, in a nutshell, once you have satisfied the education requirement, which seems to be the most complicated aspect when an Indian B.COM graduate or CA license holder intends to qualify for the US CPA, the rest of the process is pretty straight forward, just like it would be for a local US resident.
This process includes (in order):
- Applying to sit for the CPA exam itself
- Getting the NTS – Notice to Schedule your CPA exam
- Scheduling the CPA exam in a Prometric CPA center
- Preparing for the CPA exam
- Taking a CPA review course
- Passing the CPA exam
- Completing the work requirements (only if you want to practice in as a licensed CPA)
That last bullet point is important because there is a BIG difference between just a CPA certificate and a CPA license. You can read more about the difference here.
The Most Common Questions I Receive from Indian Born Aspiring CPA Candidates
Where Can I Take the US CPA Exam in India?
You cannot. However, the US CPA exam is offered in a few international sites nearby.
You can fly to the United Arab Emirates (just a few hours away) and take the CPA exam there. However, there are residency requirements you have to meet. This option works out very well for Indian citizens living and working in the UAE.
There are other territories like Japan and Guam that also offer the US CPA exam. Before you decide to go this route, make sure you read your State’s requirements. Some States don’t allow you to take the US CPA exam overseas. California is one example.
Note: When you take the US CPA exam overseas, you only have 3 years to complete your work experience requirements or else your exam scores will be voided. This is of course if you want to get your full US CPA license. In the US, very few States restrict you with a time period. The few that do give you ample time: up to 10 years in some cases.
Can I Work With an H4 Visa?
No you cannot. The H4 visa is given to family members who are in the US to visit. However, you can convert your H4 visa to a student visa (F1) or working Visa (H1) while you are in the United States. As a student, you are allowed to work part time.
Many students start this way, and then later find employers that are willing and able to “sponsor” them for permanent residency and eventually a US citizenship. Although not the most ideal way, these are just a couple of options you have. Something to consider isn’t it?
How Can I Satisfy the Work Experience Requirements Working in India?
I don’t think you can. However, contact your State because a few of my students have been able to do this in the past. The State told them to work for a Big Four Accounting firm in India under a US CPA license holder who is working as an expat in India.
I don’t want to name the States because the rules often change, and sometimes you just have to talk to the State Board of Accountancy for a customized solution for your unique situation. Just understand that with time, more and more loopholes are being closed to make it difficult to get the US CPA license if you are not living and working in the USA.
So there you have it, a very comprehensive article of well over 1,500 words on how an Indian B.COM graduate or CA can qualify for a US CPA license.
Are you aware of any other way how an Indian B.COM graduate or Chartered Accountant get their US CPA?
Please let me know using the form below. I am sure the entire reader community of this blog will appreciate your much needed advice. Let’s all help each other out.
I am here to help. If I can help you with anything, please let me know using the form below.
Aap ke acche ke liye me sada subhkamna karta hoon!
All the best
Know Someone Who Can Benefit From This Article?
Help me Spread the Word & Mail this Link to a Friend