NCARB Overhauls Certification of Foreign Architects

At the 2015 Annual Business Meeting of the National Council of Architectural Registration Boards (NCARB), Member Boards agreed on Saturday to discontinue the current Broadly Experienced Foreign Architect (BEFA) Program in favor of a simplified alternative for receiving an NCARB Certificate. The change, effective July 1, 2016, will optimize the process for foreign architects who are licensed but do not currently meet the requirements for the NCARB Certificate. This credential facilitates licensure among jurisdictions and signifies that an architect has met national standards for licensure established by registration boards.

“NCARB Certification provides an important career advantage, opening up future job opportunities throughout the U.S. and providing free online continuing education,” said NCARB President Dale McKinney, FAIA, NCARB. “We wanted to remove some of the unnecessary financial and administrative impediments for this group by refocusing on the nationally accepted standards for licensure.”

The new alternative for foreign licensees will replace the current BEFA Program’s requirements, eliminating the committee dossier review and the need to document seven years of credentialed practice in a foreign country. Instead, foreign architects will be required to document completion of the Intern Development Program (IDP) experience requirements and successfully complete the Architect Registration Examination® (ARE®) to obtain NCARB certification.

“By imposing the same experience and examination criteria on foreign architects as we do in U.S. architect candidates for certification, we address knowledge of U.S. codes and facility with English as the primary U.S. language,” McKinney said. “The new alternative will be more automated, increasing objectivity and helping reduce fees associated with the dossier and interview requirements.”

In other Annual Business Meeting action, a new alternative to the Broadly Experienced Architect (BEA) program fell one vote shy of getting the 28 votes needed by the Member Boards to discontinue the BEA in favor of a more simplified alternative for architects seeking an NCARB Certificate when they do not have a degree from a program accredited by the National Architectural Accrediting Board (NAAB).

The new requirements for the education alternative for certification would have required five years of post-licensure practice for all licensees without accredited education. It would also have required twice the IDP requirements for work experience for architects with a pre-professional architectural degree, and five times the IDP requirements for those with anything less than a pre-professional architectural degree.

“The split in our membership shows the proposal needs more work,” said NCARB CEO Michael Armstrong. “Our board will apply feedback from the membership toward a remodeled alternative and come back next year with a proposal that will try to capture the blend of rigor, inclusion and ease of use that is acceptable to a majority of our members.”


The National Council of Architectural Registration Boards’ membership is made up of the architectural registration boards of all 50 states as well as those of the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, Guam, and the U.S. Virgin Islands. NCARB assists its member registration boards in carrying out their duties and provides a certification program for individual architects.

NCARB protects the public health, safety, and welfare by leading the regulation of the practice of architecture through the development and application of standards for licensure and credentialing of architects. In order to achieve these goals, the Council develops and recommends standards to be required of an applicant for architectural registration; develops and recommends standards regulating the practice of architecture; provides to Member Boards a process for certifying the qualifications of an architect for registration; and represents the interests of Member Boards before public and private agencies. NCARB has established reciprocal registration for architects in the United States and Canada.

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