In part one of this blog series, we explained how to earn an NCARB Certificate through our Education Alternative. In this post, we’ll cover how foreign architects can obtain certification through an additional alternative path. Note: NCARB updated this blog in April 2023. 

In July 2016, NCARB launched an updated alternative path for foreign architects to pursue certification by meeting U.S. experience and examination requirements—aligning with our goal of removing unnecessary barriers to practice and promoting diversity in the profession. Since then, several foreign architects have been able to enjoy all exclusive benefits that the Certificate offers, and use their NCARB Certificate to earn a license in a U.S. jurisdiction.

So how exactly does a foreign architect apply for an NCARB Certificate and use that Certificate to get licensed in the United States? We’re glad you asked.

A “foreign architect” is defined by NCARB as an individual who holds a current architecture registration in good standing—allowing the use of the title “architect” and the unlimited practice of architecture—in a country other than the U.S. or Canada.

Applying for the Foreign Architect Path

If you fit into the description above, your next step is to create an active NCARB Record and make sure you list your foreign registration and your foreign education in your Record. When you enter your foreign registration information, you should see a box prompting you to indicate interest in the Foreign Architect Path. If you need help with this step, contact us online or at 202-879-0520.

Note: Some jurisdictions do not accept NCARB Certificates earned through this path. To find out if your desired jurisdiction accepts a Certificate earned through the Foreign Architect Path, visit the licensing requirements tool and contact your board.

Submitting Paperwork

Note: NCARB cannot accept forms or transcripts submitted directly by the applicant. Official paperwork must come directly from your credentialing authority or university.

Once you’ve indicated your interest, you’ll need to have official paperwork submitted verifying your education and registration before you are accepted into the Foreign Architect Path.

  • Foreign Registration: Complete Part A of the Credential Verification Form, used to verify the architecture license issued by your country. Then, allow for the registration/license/credentialing authority of your foreign architecture license (not your university) to complete Part B—they will be the ones submitting the final form to NCARB.
  • School Transcripts: You can have your transcripts verified and included in your NCARB Record in one of two ways:
    1. Electronic Copy: Use your school’s electronic transcript request form to have a transcript sent to NCARB. Simply enter as the recipient email address and  include your NCARB Record number in the comments/notes section (if available). Note: If you have a degree from a university outside the United States or Canada and are pursuing an Education Evaluation Service for Architects (EESA) administered by the National Architectural Accrediting Board (NAAB), do not have your transcript submitted to NCARB. Contact NAAB.
    2. Physical Copy: Download and send the transcript request form and any fee to your school(s). The school must submit your transcript directly to NCARB.

All documents submitted to NCARB must be in English. If your university does not issue transcripts in English, a translator or translation service must provide the translated documents directly to NCARB and:

  • Provide verifiable contact information including: name, email, and phone number.
  • Confirm the name of the university or entity the transcript was received from.
  • Confirm method the transcript was delivered for translation (physical mail or email)
  • Include confirmation that the translation was completed using the original, sealed document.

Please note that both the Credential Verification Form and official transcript must be completed/submitted in English. Review translation requirements.

For a detailed outline of the application process, check out our Documentation Checklist.

Experience and Examination

After you’ve created your Record and submitted your supporting documents, NCARB will review your Record and contact you regarding your eligibility for the Foreign Architect Path. You will then need to satisfy NCARB’s experience and examination requirements for certification through the Foreign Architect Path. 

  • Experience: Complete the Architectural Experience Program® (AXP®). Some of your foreign experience (up to 1,860 hours) may count toward the AXP requirement, but you will only be able to complete the AXP outside of the U.S. if you are working under an architect licensed in the U.S. or Canada. You can report qualified experience earned at any time in your professional career for 100% credit toward the program requirements. 
  • Examination: Pass the Architect Registration Examination® (ARE®) 5.0. ARE 5.0 is a multi-part exam made of six divisions. You can begin scheduling ARE divisions after NCARB has verified your transcript and foreign credential and you have paid your Certification application fee.


The foreign architect path has a maximum fee of $1,100, depending on the cost of your initial NCARB Record application—this is the same as the cost of a standard Certificate application. Note: This does not include the cost of completing the exam, which costs $235 per division.

The application fee will not be applied to your account until after your required credentials are approved, and you will have one year to pay the fee. Learn more about the fees associated with establishing and maintaining an NCARB Certificate.

Earning a Certificate and Getting Licensed

Once you have paid the fees and NCARB has confirmed you meet the requirements for certification through this path, you will be issued a Certificate number. You will then be able to use your NCARB Certificate to apply for reciprocal licensure in a U.S. jurisdiction that accepts the Foreign Architect Path.

Still have questions about earning a license to practice in the United States? Our customer service team is here to assist. We also encourage those interested in the Foreign Architect Path to Certification to explore our Certification Guidelines for more details.