Process to become US CPA

What is the Process of Doing US CPA?

One of US CPA candidate has put enormous efforts throughout his CPA journey (with California State) and decided to write this article to help aspiring CPAs and provide them valuable tips he learned from his own experience. The aim of this material is to simplify this process so you can spend less time worrying about your application getting approved, and more time focusing on what’s actually important, studying and passing the exam.

Eligibility: The CPA exam application process varies slightly by state jurisdiction, but the majority of the steps are the same. Each jurisdiction has specific requirements regarding education, experience and residency. Refer to your jurisdiction’s application materials for additional information. You need to check the basic eligibility requirements before applying for the CPA exam. Make sure that you have met all of your state requirements, if you do not meet them all then you might need to be more selective about which state you choose to register in as per the eligibility.

How to apply for the exam: CPA requires 150 credit hours (some states allow examination with 120 credit hours but need 150 for licensure). The credit hours are calculated based upon the subjects you have studied in graduation, post- graduation or any professional course. You can opt for states you wish to pursue further in and get the evaluation complete. For example California requires you to have at least 150 credit hours to be eligible to appear for Uniform CPA examination but some states require just 120 credit hours to take exam and allow you the time to add more credit hours during the process of your exam or later.

Follow the steps mentioned below for the entire process starting from evaluation to sitting in the exam:

  1. Send application for evaluation: If you have studied in the U.S., you are required to have 150 or 120 semester hours of college education to be eligible to take the CPA exam. However, A candidate who has studied in a country other than the U.S. needs to complete the Foreign Credential Evaluation process. Before you contact an evaluation agency, you need to select the state in which to register for your exam. There are two reasons:
  • Each state has its own list of approved evaluation agencies — you don’t want to pay for a report that is not recognized by the board.
  • Each state board has slightly different qualifying rules as regards to minimum number of credit hours in accounting subjects and business subjects to be covered in in your degree or study program. Therefore, the agency needs to know which rules to apply to when reviewing your transcripts.
  • NASBA also provides evaluation services for international candidates. If you are not sure about the state which may meet your education then it is better to avail NASBA “Undecided Jurisdiction Evaluation” services which may cost slightly more but save lot of risk and time as NASBA will suggest you 3 states which meet your educational credentials.

The number of days required to produce an evaluation report varies considerably. Most agencies have a 2 week turnaround time, but can vary from 5 business days to 8+ weeks.

Each state has its list of approved agencies that provide international students with Foreign Credential Evaluation services. For example, the California Board of Accountancy’s list includes 18 agencies. NASBA International Evaluation Services (NIES) is one of the approved agencies and it costs $225 to $300 for the evaluation report.

As an international candidate, he submitted an online application with NIES (NASBA International Evaluation Services). We can check their requirements page to see what the documentation requirements are from a specific country. He sent his application for evaluation and all sealed official transcripts (which consists of the degree as well as the mark sheet) from his University to NIES in February 2018. This was the longest part of the process as it took 6 months to get to completion. It is advisable for international candidates to begin the credential evaluation process as early as possible. Meanwhile, you can start your studies and prepare for the exams ahead, if your mentor feels that on the basis of transcript he advises your of good chance of having successful evaluation report .

Some evaluation agencies have online tracking systems, while others may have an email notification service. A few have no updates and you have to call them to check. You may take this into consideration as it is important for you keep track of the progress.

Note: Make sure to provide degree transcripts for University as you generally get just the mark sheet when apply for transcripts. The process is different to get the transcript for degree. He was not aware of this thing and it cost him two months delay in getting the evaluation.

    2. Submit Exam application: NIES send the evaluation report directly to the state board of accountancy which will include the names of the institutions that you attended, the period during which the course was held, and details of the credentials that you received. NIES will also provide the U.S. equivalent of your credentials. Once you receive the evaluation report, depending upon the requirements of state you choose, you will be asked to register on CPA central with the login credentials for exam application process or you will have to submit CPA exam application with the state board and pay application fee (usually $100-$200) depending on the State. The latter process might take another 3-4 weeks depending upon the volume of applications received by the board and you will have to wait to get ATT from the State Board.
    3. Authorization to Test (ATT): This document is sent by the state board which states that you have been approved to take all four sections of the Uniform CPA. Once you receive your ATT, you get 90 days (in most states) to decide which sections you want to sit for and pay for them to NASBA. You may pay by credit card by visiting the NASBA website at Fees range from $700-$1,000 for all 4 sections depending on the state or around $175-$250 per section. If you will be taking exam at some international testing location then you have pay international testing fee per subject in addition to normal exam fee mentioned above. Your application fee (which you paid to state board under step 2) will be forfeited if you don’t remit payment within this 90-day period and you will have to re-apply.
    4. Receive your Notice to Schedule (NTS) from NASBA: A Notice to Schedule (NTS) is your official document that authorizes you to sit for the CPA exam in the United States or at any international testing location. You receive this document from NSABA between 3-6 weeks after the exam fee payment. Each state has a NTS “validation period” which essentially means you have to take exams for the sections mentioned in the NTS within this period; else you will have to re-pay for those sections. Once it expires, it cannot be reused. With one NTS, you are eligible to appear for a section only once. If you do not clear that section, apply for NTS again by paying NSABA. Many state jurisdictions have established a six-month NTS validation period, except for 7-8 jurisdictions which provide nine or twelve month’s validation period. Check your state requirement for that. California provides you nine months validation period.

Note: Don’t pay for all four sections if you don’t think you can study and sit for all four within that validation period or you will forfeit your money for any untaken tests. If you have a busy schedule, you can choose which sections you want to take first and pay for only those sections, then reapply for the remaining sections later (re-application fees are generally around $50).

    5. Go to the Prometric website to schedule the exam: Make sure to know about testing windows and find out when you are not allowed to sit for the CPA exam which mostly includes last 20 days of every quarter. You can choose to take one or more sections of the CPA exam during a particular testing window. You can even take all four sections during the same testing window (Quarter period) if you are prepared enough with studies point of view and have NTS for all four sections. However, you are not allowed to take the same section more than once in the same testing window. NASBA is planning to allow in future to re-take exam in same testing window

Note: If you schedule you exams one month in advance, you won’t have to struggle to find your preferred dates.

    6. Elimination of testing window: A good news for CPA candidates who will appear in 2020. According to the revised Rule, NASBA is planning to eliminate the need for test window limitations. As a result, candidates will be able to retake a Test Section once their grade for any previous attempt of the same test section has been released.
    7. Rescheduling the exam: You have the option to reschedule your exam if you are not able to take the exam on the date scheduled earlier. You may do so without spending extra penny if rescheduling is done within 30 or more days in advance. However, you will be charged $35 for rescheduling between 5-30 days and full price for less than 5 days.

Few important points:

The best US CPA preparation and review courses and products are supplied by Becker Professional Education, which help candidates to pass their exam faster and with higher grades.

You must pass all four sections of the Uniform CPA exam in an 18-month period. The actual date of the first examination section you cleared will be considered to determine this period. You will lose credit for any section that you passed outside the 18-month period.

You need to score a minimum of 75 points in each section to pass.

You may take the exam in any state or jurisdiction irrespective of where you have registered. If you are registered with California board you exams in in Washington or any other location where there is approved prometric testing centre.

The requirements to get CPA license after clearing all four uniform CPA exams are different for every state, hence you need to confirm that with your state board.

Some people clear all four exams within 4-5 months, others might take more than 18 months. Do not stress out by comparing yourself with others. Everyone has their own pace to achieve success. Good luck!!