Yes, you can take the CPA exam without a valid social security number. Although, most states require CPA candidates to have a social security number in order to take the CPA exam, there are ways to sit for the exam without a SSN.
Most candidates only pay attention the academic CPA requirements, so they rarely look into whether a SSN is required. This isn’t typically a problem for US citizens, as they already have SSNs. International candidates are a different story.
Most states will only accept citizens of the United States. There are however some states such as Louisiana, Hawaii, North Carolina, and Alabama that will not restrict non-citizens from pursuing CPA. International students can also register and take the examinations from select exam centers. Even though most states will ask for the SSN in the application, holders of H4 visas qualify for waivers that help them reduce the cost of the exam.
Let’s look at the Social Security requirements for the CPA exam and where you can take the exam without a social security number.
Do you Need a Social Security Number to Take the CPA exam?
Yes, you may qualify to take the CPA exam with or without the social security number depending on the state. This is an especially important requirement that most people fail to pay attention to as they focus on other qualifications.
Considering most non-US citizens and international students are likely not to have the SSN, some states have loosened their requirements to accommodate these candidates, making it not mandatory.
States such as Wisconsin, Illinois, Montana, New York, South Dakota, Alaska, Guam, Maine, Michigan, New Mexico, North Dakota, and the Northern Mariana Islands do not require a social security number to take the exam.
Step By Step Guide For International CPA Candidates
Applying for the CPA exam as an international candidate can be challenging. Candidates located outside the United States often run in to a few different requirements and snags that U.S. citizens don’t have to deal with.
Here are the steps to apply for the CPA exam as an international candidate without a Social Security number:
Choose a jurisdiction
Even though the overall management of CPA is handled by the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants, state accountancy boards play a direct vital role in pre-qualifying and licensing candidates.
You should therefore choose a jurisdiction, ideally one of the states with no SSN requirements. Contact the relevant board for guidance on the application process and fees.
After you have settled on the jurisdiction, you should proceed to make the application and pay the necessary exam fees. The board will communicate on whether you qualify or not as soon as possible.
Choose an exam center
An international student can take the exam from the nearest testing center of their choice. You can check out the list of countries that have centers from the website of the National Association of State Boards of Accountancy.
After completing the above three stages, you should start preparing for the exam. The latest content and topics are usually updated by the AICPA. You can then decide if you will enroll in a CPA study course or how to get the updated study materials and prepare for the exam.
One of the biggest challenges faced by international students eyeing the coveted CPA certification is that the exams are uniform. All candidates sit for the same examination at any given time.
This might pose a challenge to those who are not conversant with the changing laws and regulations governing the profession. It is therefore highly recommended that you purchase CPA study guide from reputable providers online.
Should You Get A US Social Security Number To Take The CPA Exam?
The US social security number is assigned by the Social Security Administration to U.S citizens, qualified non-immigrant employees, and permanent U.S residents. Getting this document is subject to thorough grilling and verification by the authorities to ascertain your eligibility.
The question of whether you should pursue an SSN or not will depend on your career plans. If your aspiration is to acquire the certification so that you can work in other countries, then you do not need to apply for SSN. You can simply take the exam in any of the states that do not require an SSN. Different countries will also have to appraise your qualifications before issuing a license.
Candidates who are keen on permanently relocating to the United States and practicing as CPAs will have to get the SSN because it is a mandatory legal requirement. You should therefore check with the authorities on what needs to be done to get an SSN.
How Can An International CPA Candidate Apply For A SSN?
In case you would prefer to apply for a social security number, there are a few recommended strategies. Note that the best option is always to register in a state that does not need SSN. Upon attaining the certificate, it is easier to secure employment and thereafter pursue the SSN.
Apply for the social security number alongside your immigrant visa application in your home country. Expect the social security card at least three weeks upon arrival in the United States. This should only be possible upon fulfillment of other requirements.
Non-immigrants and those who do not apply for SSN alongside their visas can apply for the SSN by presenting a petition and notices of approval to any Social Security office within the U.S indicating that they are authorized to work in the U.S and legal status of immigration.
As an international J-1, J-2, and F/M-1 student, you should provide documents such as the 1-20 certificate of eligibility for non-immigrant students, work permits, stamped employment-based authorization, and birth certificates for age verification, and other documents that authorizes your employment in the U.S.
Is A SSN The Biggest Obstacle For An International CPA Candidate?
No. That is far from it. In fact, the social security number is the least of most candidates’ concerns because some states allow international students without the social security number to take the exam in their jurisdictions.
Therefore, you can simply identify one of these states and register there. Some of the biggest obstacles to ambitious international CPA candidates eyeing the coveted CPA certifications include:
Language: The exam is set in English. There are no translated versions. Non-native English candidates might encounter challenges keeping up with the pace required to accurately answer all the questions in the allocated time. You must therefore dedicate more time to sharpening the written and spoken English language alongside going through the CPA study materials, which can be exhausting.
Cost: It is more expensive for international students compared to taking the exams. It is estimated that the self-study CPA material alone may cost as high as $4,000. It gets worse if you must retake the exam.
Limited test centers: Even though you can take the exam outside the U.S, the few test centers may still be far for most candidates, especially if you are not a resident of the select locations. Furthermore, you will have to plan for travel, visas, air flight, accommodation, and other requirements that will eat into your pockets.
Approvals: For some reason, not all applications are approved by the relevant state boards. In fact, it averages only 50%. This locks out many qualified CPA candidates from the exam.
Time-restricted: Candidates have 18 months to pass all the exams for the four CPA sections. As a result, candidates are forced to work extra hard to ensure that they pass within the set time limits.
Content of exam: The CPA exam is centered around U.S topics. With the ever-changing legislative environments, these requirements are equally adjusted annually. These changes may be foreign to international students whose interpretation in an exam setting may affect their overall score.
Can I Become a CPA without a Social Security Number?
Yes, you can become a Certified Public Accountant without a SSN. Becoming a Certified Public Accountant can be challenging for international candidates, but it is doable. You must plan accordingly and understand what strategies you need to take in order to apply.
The best way to register is to choose a U.S. jurisdiction that does not require a social security number. That way you won’t be burdened with the process of applying for a SSN while you are trying to study for the CPA exam.
If you choose to work in the US after you pass the exam, that might be the best time to apply for your SSN. Until then, start studying and prepping for the exam.