Dear Mentor:

Can I get to the US as an accountant?

I am certified with Nigeria's accounting body. I desire to emigrate to the US but I doubt if the demand for accountants is that high. Is it worth it pursuing the CPA locally or is a career change a better goal?

Accountant to the US, Nigeria

Dear Accountant to the US:

While the accounting profession commands reasonable demand in the US, we are not aware of any serious shortages that would force companies to attract accountants from abroad and oblige the US INS (Immigration & Naturalization Services) officials to issue employment visas to foreign workers.

Accounting is also a bit of a tricky profession. While the accounting principles are fundamentally the same, the accounting practices vary across countries, sometimes dramatically. Companies - that is, the prospective employers - are liable to question whether your knowledge and skills are directly relevant to their needs and accounting practices in the US. In all likelihood, you will find it extremely difficult to gain immediate employment in the US.

Based on this reasoning, we suggest that you pursue the CPA in Nigeria where your skills are at least directly relevant to the marketplace. We frankly do not understand the part about changing profession. If by this you meant moving to the US in the accounting profession, you already have our answer. If however you meant changing profession from accounting to something else, then our is answer is a definite "it depends." It depends on whether: it is easy or difficult for you to switch to another profession; the profession you choose is in high demand; and your ambitions, interests and goals are consistent with the pursuit of this profession. Keep in mind that even if the demand for your new profession is very high elsewhere in the world, you may not be able to emigrate easily. Immigration requirements and quotas for temporary workers in most countries are rather stringent.

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