Top 5 Challenges Facing Foreign CPA Exam Applicants


In our increasingly global economy, the importance and value of CPAs is greater than ever. Despite significant movements toward international accounting guidelines, the U.S. CPA Exam continues to serve as the standard by which other global assessments are judged. Moreso, individuals who have passed the U.S. CPA Exam are still sought after by companies all over the world.

Unfortunately, the CPA Exam is not administered in countries outside of the United States, despite global demand for increased access. This may, eventually, cease to be an issue once IFRS is fully incorporated into the U.S. financial and accounting environment. For now, however, students and professionals must travel to the United States or its territories to take the famously difficult CPA Exam.

In fact, foreign applicants for the CPA Exam face a number of unique challenges that domestic applicants may not even be aware of, including:

  1. High cost and difficulty of travel- From the expense of international flight, to room and board, foreign candidates often need to spend as much as $3,000 to take the CPA Exam in the U.S. This cost can escalate if the candidate needs to take an exam part more than once, as many students do.
  2. Difficulty of obtaining visa- Depending on the country of origin, it can be extremely difficult or even impossible to obtain a temporary visa. For some, the process begins months, or even years ahead of time.
  3. Academic credential evaluations- While there are many services that specialize in making sure a candidate has the prerequisites needed to sit for the exam, the whole application process often requires greater planning and preparation than what is required of a domestic candidate.
  4. Personal sacrifice- During trips to the U.S. to take the CPA Exam, most candidates have limited access to friends, family and other supportive or familiar elements, which can be severely demoralizing.
  5. Pressure- Because the cost of taking the CPA Exam can be so high, the perceived level of stress and pressure is dramatically increased. This stress can be aggravated by disorienting environmental and cultural factors such as strange food, unfamiliar sleeping arrangements, and jet lag.

While these challenges can be daunting, they can usually be successfully overcome with determination, planning, and a clear focus on the goal. Those foreign candidates who persevere understand that becoming a CPA can be one of the most rewarding and lucrative decisions they can make. Their ability to conquer such a difficult task against intimidating odds is a character quality that is highly desirable in both international and domestic companies. Their demonstrated knowledge of U.S. accounting practices and principles make them valuable members of any organization. And, the sense of personal accomplishment they gain is priceless.

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