I explain how to look up an LLC in California with a California business name search on the California Secretary of State website.
The direct link to look up an LLC in the state of California:
California Secretary of State bizfile Online Page
How Do I Look Up an LLC in California? (Summary)
To look up an LLC in the state of California, you can follow these steps:
- Visit the website of the California Secretary of State at https://bizfileonline.sos.ca.gov/
- On the home page, click on “Business Search” in the “Business Programs” section.
- In the “Business Search” page, select “Limited Liability Company” from the “Entity Type” drop-down menu.
- Enter the name of the LLC that you want to look up in the “Entity Name” field. You can also enter the California Secretary of State file number or the registered agent name, if you have that information.
- Click on “Search” and wait for the results to load.
- If there are multiple LLCs with similar names, you can refine your search by using the filters on the left-hand side of the page. You can filter by city, county, status, and other criteria.
- Once you find the LLC that you are looking for, you can click on its name to view its details, including its status, address, registered agent, filing history, and other information.
California Secretary of State: Entity Search
Note that the California Secretary of State’s website provides a free online search tool for looking up LLCs and other business entities registered in the state. However, if you need certified copies or additional information, you may need to submit a request and pay a fee.
How to Conduct a Business Search in California
California Business Name Search: A business name search is the first step in forming an LLC in California or a corporation there. To determine if the name you are interested in is available, this search will check all registered businesses within the state.
Like all other states, California requires that each LLC or corporation registered within the state has a unique business name. Before you start your LLC or Corporation, conduct a search for business entities to confirm that the name is not already registered with the California Secretary-of-State. California business name searches are free.
Step #1: Visit California’s bizfile Online Page
Visit California’s new bizfile Online system for Business Entities and Uniform Commercial Code is now available.
Step #2: Do a Free California Business Name Search
Visit the California business name search page
To check the availability of your chosen name, you can use the California Entity Search before you submit your name reservation request. Select the “Search Type” option to perform the best search.
Next, type the name you wish to use. To ensure that you find all similar names, you can search only the first two words of your business name if it is more than one word.
To avoid rejection, make sure you do a thorough search of your documents before you submit them.
Follow the California naming guidelines:
- Your California entity name must contain the phrase “limited liability company” or one of its abbreviations, L.L.C. or L.L.C. ).
- Your name cannot contain words that could cause confusion between your LLC and a government agency (FBI or Treasury, State Department, etc.). ).
- Restricted words (e.g. Bank, Attorney, and University may need additional paperwork, as well as the participation of a licensed individual such as a doctor or lawyer to your LLC.
- You can find more about Califonia’s rules and regulations at California’s Code of Regulations
Step #3 Reserve Your California Entity Name (Optional)
From California’s bizfile Online website,
Online processing fee: $10. Upon approval, a name can be reserved for a period of 60 days. For faster service, name reservations can be submitted online through our enhanced online services at bizfileOnline.sos.ca.gov.
It is not neccessary to apply for a name reservation if you are concurrently filing a California business entity formation or registration.
California Business Name Reservation Page
Additional Search for Name Availability
To find out if your desired California business name is available, you’ll need to complete an inquiry letter .
In order to process the name availability letter, there will be several pieces of information. These details include:
- The name of the person who requested the determination.
- If possible, the name of the business that is requesting the determination.
- The name, address, phone number and fax number for the person who is requesting the determination.
- The proposed business structure classification (ex. corporation, etc. ).
- The name proposed, as well as the second and third options.
You will need to complete the form and send it to California Secretary of State. The address of the California Secretary of State is:
1500 11th Street, 3rd Floor
Sacramento, CA 95814
After you have sent the letter, you must wait for confirmation from the Secretary of State.
It is important not to send an inquiry letter to Secretary of State without first looking over and following California’s procedures and naming rules for LLCs.
California’s rules for LLC name are as per Section 17701.08 of California Code of Corporations.
- A variant of LLC must be added to the company’s name. There are three permissible variants: “LLC”, L.L.C., “Limited Liability Company”, and “Limited Liability Company”. Liability Co., or “Ltd. Liability Company
- Ex. bank, corporation, trustee, trust, incorporated, inc., etc. ).
- The proposed name cannot give the impression that an LLC is selling insurance or taking on risk for insurance purposes. It cannot have a name that includes the words “insurer”, insurance company, or any other words that could give this impression.
Once you have determined that the name is available in California, using a search engine and inquiry letter, you can then reserve it. It will be reserved for 60 days after it is confirmed.
After determining your company’s name and reserving it, the next step is to start the incorporation process. You will need documents like articles for incorporation.
Your name will not become permanent and confirmed until your business submits its articles of incorporation.
Before you start your California business name search, and it is confirmed upon company formation, you must ensure that no large expenses are dependent on this name. signs, stationary, etc. These may prove to be ineffective later.
Secretary of State Business Search: By Name
You can search for California business names online through the Secretary Of State’s website instead of the inquiry letter.
To search by name, first visit the Secretary of State’s website for name searches. Next, choose the type of business entity you want to conduct a name search. Next, enter the name that you wish to search. Finally, click “Search.”
The search will end and you will see a list of entities that may be similar to the name you entered. You will see the results with the name of the entity, as well as the California registration number, the date they filed it, current business status and information about the registered agent who received service of process.
Click the name of the business to view more information. Clicking the name will open a new page with all details about the business.
These are the details that will appear on the results page of the business:
- The business name.
- The registration number of the business.
- The date that the business was registered.
- Current status.
- The jurisdiction of the business.
- Their address.
- The registered agent.
- Address of the registered agent.
To ensure that your search results are accurate, it is important to not include punctuation after the terms. If the name or business you are looking for has punctuation after the initials or periods, don’t include these punctuation marks in your search. Instead, put your initials together and leave no spaces.
If the business name that you are looking for is structured such that there are initials followed by a period and then a space, you can delete the periods from the name, but not the spaces.
Name search results will be affected by the way you enter spaces, plurals, or punctuation. For example, if you search for “X Y Z Business”, you must keep the spaces in your name search to get the correct results. You will not find the correct results if you search for “XYZ Business”, instead.
It is important to use plurals in order to retrieve the results. To retrieve the correct search results, enter “LMN Productions” instead of a plural modified term like “LMN Productions”.
Because of their impact on your search for your name, be careful about how plurals, punctuation and spacing are used.
Search by Entity number (8 Digits)
To search for businesses that have a registered number, you will need to first visit the Secretary of State’s website and enter the registration number. The registration number should have eight digits and begin with the letter “C”. Click on search.
The results will be based on your inputted registration number. Click the business name to view more information about this entity number.
Copies of documents, certificates, and status reports
You might want to get certain legal documents or certificates after you have completed your name search.
You might be interested in the following documents:
- Status Certificate
- Certificate of all documents filed
- No Record Certificate
The certificate of status certifies that the LLC is in good standing at the moment. The Secretary of State does not have any records about the business that is being requested for the No Record Certificate.
There are also other certified/uncertified documents you might desire, which cover:
You can also get reports about a business’s status. These include its entire name, registration number, current status, current address, and jurisdiction.
To request and receive various documents, reports and certificates, you need to contact Sacramento Office of the California Secretary Of State. It can be requested by mail or in person.
You can submit various documents requests using a variety procedural instructions. These instructions can be found on the request form, as well as the fees.
Application for a DBA in LA
Online, by mail or in person, you can search for non-current business names. To search for business names, RR/CC does not allow phone queries.
You can search online for fictitious business names to find out if they are currently being used. There is no cost for the in-person search.
You can pay $2 per business name or company if you want certified results from companies you search for.
A branch office search will not yield the name of the business, document number and filing date. You can request more information at the Norwalk central offices in person or by mail.
The LAX Courthouse allows you to do name searches and file in person. It can be found at:
11701 S. Cienega Boulevard, Floor 6
Los Angeles, CA 90045
Business can be conducted there between 8:30 AM and 4:00 PM on business days.
44509 16th Street West Suite #101
Lancaster, CA 93534
It is available for filings and searches during normal business hours between 8:30 AM and 4:00 PM. Van Nuys is also available for in-person business during these hours. It can be found at:
14340 W. Sylvan Street
Van Nuys (CA 91401)
You can also conduct business in person at the Norwalk Main Office between 8:30 and 5:45 pm.
12400 Imperial Highway Room 1201
Norwalk, CA 90650
1. Trademark Search
When searching for a business name, it’s important to note that availability doesn’t necessarily mean the name is free to use if it’s already a registered trademark.
To avoid potential complications down the line, it’s wise to conduct a thorough trademark search using the Trademark Electronic Search System before finalizing a business name.
2. Choose a Registered Agent
After you have chosen an LLC name that is distinctive and unique, you can now choose your LLC’s Registered Agent.
3. Check if the Domain Name is Available
To check if a domain name is available, you can follow these steps:
- Go to a domain registrar website, such as GoDaddy.com or Namecheap.com.
- In the search bar on the homepage, type in the domain name you want to check.
- Click on the search button to see if the domain name is available or not.
- If the domain name is available, you will be prompted to purchase it. If it’s not available, the registrar will suggest some alternative options or you can try a different domain name.
It’s a good idea to check the availability of multiple domain name options as your first choice may already be taken.
Additionally, if you are considering registering a domain name for your business, make sure to also check for any existing trademarks that may conflict with your chosen domain name.
4. Check if Social Media Name is Available
To check if a social media name is available for a new business, you can follow these steps:
- Start by choosing a social media platform where you would like to create an account for your business. Some of the popular options include Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn, Pinterest, and TikTok.
- Once you have selected the platform, go to the sign-up page and try to create an account using your desired social media name.
- If the name is already taken, the platform will display an error message indicating that the name is not available. In this case, you may need to consider alternative names for your social media account.
- If the name is available, the platform will allow you to create an account using that name.
- It’s important to note that just because a social media name is available, it doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s free to use. You should still do your due diligence to ensure that the name is not already a registered trademark or being used by another business in your industry.
5. Register California Business Entity
When you complete the required documents for filing a new business entity, you then register your business and business name with the state. The state of California will either approve your business name or reject it.
If you hire a good LLC service like Northwest Registered Agent, ZenBusiness or Incfile, these LLC services have business name tools available for you to do a quick search. I recommend using any of these 3 services to assist you with forming a new business. They can save you time and provide you with guidance through the formation process.
6. Register an Employer ID Number (EIN) With the IRS
An Employer Identification Number (EIN) is a unique nine-digit number assigned by the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) to identify businesses and other entities for tax purposes.
Here’s how you can get an EIN:
- Determine if you need an EIN: You’ll need an EIN if you have employees, operate your business as a corporation or partnership, file employment tax returns, have a Keogh plan, or are required to file any of the following tax returns: Employment, Excise, or Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms.
- Apply for an EIN: You can apply for an EIN online, by fax, by mail, or by phone. The quickest and easiest way is to apply online through the IRS website.
- Provide the necessary information: When applying for an EIN, you’ll need to provide your legal name, trade name (if applicable), business address, and the type of legal structure of your business (e.g., sole proprietorship, partnership, corporation, LLC).
- Wait for your EIN: If you apply online, you can receive your EIN immediately after completing the application. If you apply by fax or mail, it can take up to four weeks to receive your EIN.
Note that there is no fee to apply for an EIN. Once you receive your EIN, be sure to keep it safe and use it on all tax documents and forms.
7. Create a Brand Logo
Creating a business logo involves several steps. Here’s a general overview of the process:
- Define your brand: Before you start creating a logo, you need to define your brand’s personality, values, and mission. This will help you create a logo that accurately represents your brand.
- Determine the design style: Decide on the design style you want for your logo. Do you want it to be modern or classic, minimalistic or intricate, colorful or monochromatic? Consider your brand personality and target audience when making this decision.
- Choose the colors: Pick a color palette that reflects your brand personality and complements your design style. Colors have psychological meanings and can affect how people perceive your brand.
- Brainstorm ideas: Brainstorm several logo design concepts based on your brand personality, values, and mission. You can use online resources for inspiration or hire a professional logo designer to create a custom logo for you.
- Sketch your ideas: Once you have some logo design concepts, sketch them out on paper to visualize how they might look. This can help you narrow down your options and refine your ideas.
- Design the logo: Use a graphic design software program like Adobe Illustrator or Canva to create your logo design. Search on Fiverr for logo designs. Make sure it is scalable and can be used across different mediums.
- Get feedback: Share your logo design with colleagues, friends, or family to get feedback. This can help you refine your design further.
- Finalize the logo: Once you have incorporated feedback, finalize your logo design. Be sure to use high-quality images and files for your logo.
- Protect your logo: If you want to protect your logo, consider trademarking it with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office. This will prevent others from using a similar logo and protect your brand’s identity.
8. Write a Business Plan
Writing a business plan involves a comprehensive process that covers various aspects of your business, including the industry, market research, marketing and sales strategies, financial projections, and more. Here are some steps to guide you in writing a business plan and links to resources that can help you:
- Executive summary: This section provides a summary of your business plan, highlighting key information about your business, target market, products or services, and financial projections. It should be brief but comprehensive.
- Company description: This section describes your company’s mission, vision, values, and legal structure. It also includes information about the management team, business location, and history.
- Market analysis: This section provides a detailed analysis of your industry, target market, competition, and customer demographics. It also includes information about market trends and growth projections.
- Marketing and sales strategies: This section outlines your marketing and sales strategies, including branding, advertising, pricing, and distribution channels.
- Products and services: This section describes your products or services, their features and benefits, and how they will meet the needs of your target market.
- Financial projections: This section provides a detailed financial forecast for your business, including projected revenue, expenses, profits, and cash flow. It also includes a break-even analysis and funding requirements.
Here are some links to resources that can help you in writing a business plan:
- Small Business Administration (SBA): The SBA offers a step-by-step guide to writing a business plan, including templates and sample plans.
- SCORE: SCORE provides free business plan templates and guides, as well as mentoring and counseling services.
- Bplans: Bplans offers a wide variety of business plan templates, tools, and resources, including sample plans for different industries.
- LivePlan: LivePlan is a cloud-based software that provides business planning tools and templates, financial forecasting, and collaboration features.
- Canva: Canva offers a range of customizable business plan templates and design tools to help you create a professional-looking plan.
9. Open a Business Bank Account in California
A bank account is generally required for a new Limited Liability Company (LLC) or corporation to separate personal finances from business finances and to establish a clear record of business transactions.
Having a separate bank account for your LLC will help you keep track of your business’s income and expenses, which will be useful for tax purposes, accounting, and financial management. It will also make it easier to accept payments from customers and pay bills, suppliers, and employees.
To open a bank account for your LLC, you will typically need to provide the following documents:
- Certificate of Formation: This is a legal document that shows that your LLC has been registered with the state.
- Operating Agreement: This document outlines the rules and procedures for running your LLC and is required by some banks.
- EIN (Employer Identification Number) Confirmation Letter: This is a letter from the IRS confirming your LLC’s tax identification number.
- Identification documents: You will need to provide personal identification documents, such as a driver’s license, passport, or state ID, and proof of address, such as a utility bill.
Note that the specific requirements for opening a bank account for an LLC may vary depending on the bank and state where you are located. It’s best to contact the bank you plan to use to inquire about their specific requirements.
California Business Tips
If you’re looking to form an LLC in California, it’s crucial to understand the necessary steps and requirements. To begin, conduct a California LLC name search to ensure the availability of your desired business name.
Once you’ve confirmed its availability, you can proceed with preparing the essential formation documents, including registering your business name and drafting a California LLC operating agreement, which outlines the internal structure and management of your LLC.
Additionally, you have the option to be your own registered agent in California or enlist the services of a professional registered agent. It’s worth noting that the length of time to get an LLC in California can vary, but typically ranges from a few weeks to several months.
To streamline the process, it’s advisable to gather all required information and submit your filings promptly. Furthermore, obtaining a California Employer Identification Number (EIN) from the IRS is essential for tax purposes.
Detailed guides and online resources are available to help you navigate the steps involved, and various California LLC services and registered agents can assist you in forming your LLC efficiently. Additionally, ensure compliance with any necessary business licenses in California, and consider the California LLC cost while budgeting for the formation process.
Frequently Asked Questions
Is a California license required for a business entity?
California permits and licenses are required for most businesses. You can search CalGold to find out if your business requires one. You can also check out our guide to obtaining a California business license.
When I create an LLC in California, do I need to file a DBA?
No. No DBA is required if your LLC operates under its LLC’s name.
A DBA is required if the LLC wants to operate under a different name. To open Joe’s Coffee Stand under the name Joe’s Ground Coffee LLC, it would need to file a DBA.
Brian Wilson is the content manager and founder of LLC Radar.
Brian grew up in North Texas, just outside of Dallas, and has a bachelor’s degree in business journalism from Southern Methodist University. Since graduating from SMU, Brian has gained over 10 years of experience in business writing for several online publications.
Brian resides in Plano, Texas and he can be reached by email: email@example.com