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Where Can International CPA Candidates Get Certified Without Being Technically Licensed?

Getting back to the awesomeness that is the CPA exam for international candidates (piggybacking on the AICPA’s announcement earlier this week that they are moving forward with international testing in 2011), today’s reader question comes from a NY-based CPA exam candidate who originally hails from India.

I have passed all sections of the CPA exam in Delaware. I do not have experience to qualify for license yet. DE has stopped issuing certificate “alone” for CPA, they now issue combined cert + license. Is there a state who issues the certificate alone?

A few years ago, most international candidates went with either Colorado or Delaware simply because those state boards allowed for the easiest CPA exam experience without, well, the actual experience. International candidates could apply, show up to take the exams, pass and never actually become CPAs in the traditional sense but go home with those fantastic little letters on their résumés.

Unfortunately for international candidates, the state boards got together and decided that there might be some confusion between these certificate-holding CPAs and CPAs who fulfilled educational and experience requirements for licensure. As we all know, you could stay in school for 10 years reading about the stuff but there is just no substitute for good old work experience in the profession.

The old timers will recognize the term “two-tier state” as it was initially thought that passing the exam (the part where the certificate comes in) was the first step – or tier – and satisfying experience or additional education requirements the second.

So now that you have the backstory, where can you go? Right now Illinois is your only option and you will only have that available to you until 2012. They initially decided to eliminate the certificate in 2010 but the governor gave this CPA certificate plan a stay of execution until 2012, so get on it now if that’s your plan.

The other remaining one-tier states – Alabama, Kansas, Montana and Nebraska – all have a residency requirement or other restriction. That may mean they are out of the question for you. Montana requires a Social Security number for a certificate, something many international applicants obviously don’t have. Without knowing our reader’s specific details, this may or may not be an option. Anyone with experience with this little nuance in the the CPA certifying world is invited to share their experience.

Good luck and just be glad you aren’t getting licensed in New York!