California Business Entity Search (Step-by-Step Guide)
If you’re thinking of forming a new business in California, you’ll need to conduct a California business name search first. The business entity search will bring up registered business entities in the state of California, allowing you to see if the business name is still available.
The state of California, like the other states, requires that each business registered in the state have a unique business name.
The business entity’s search is completely free of charge, and you are free to conduct the name search on the business entity search page on the California Secretary of State’s website.
Additionally, there are a few options when it comes to searching for business entities in California. You may conduct a business entity search by business entity name, business entity number, or the business’s registered agent’s name.
California search tips
Make use of the following helpful tips to find the results you’re looking for quickly and easily:
- The search is not case-sensitive as all letters are treated as uppercase in the search bar
- Broaden your search by making use of a single keyword in an entity name. For both the “Entity status” and “Entity type” search filters, select “All.”
- If an entity name contains a space, keep it, and if an entity name does not have a space, do not add one.
- You should also note that all similar entity business names will be grouped together, and all unique punctuation marks will be removed from the search results.
- When searching by entity number for a limited liability company or California LLC, you only need to enter the 12-digit entity number and nothing else.
- When searching for a corporation using the entity number, enter the letter “C” before the seven-digit entity number.
There are two types of searches that you may perform, the basic search or the advanced search.
- Basic entity search: The basic search allows you to search by entity name or number. Additionally, the basic entity search uses keywords to perform the search.
- Advanced entity search: The advanced entity search option allows you to use much broader criteria. When using the advanced search, you may search using the entity number, corporation entity name, or LLC entity name.
You’ll need to click on the advanced button below the search filter and refine your search by entity status, entity type, and initial filings dates. This will populate in a list format if there are partial or complete matches.
Business entity search by name
Visit the California Secretary of State’s website
Go to the California Secretary of State’s online portal
Click on business entities, and this will bring you to the business search page.
Search for a business name
Enter the name of the business or company name you’re searching for in the search tool. This example uses the term ” Sew What”
Review the results
Several results matching your search criteria may come up. Ensure that you browse through the “status column” to verify whether a business is active, suspended, or dissolved. If the business name has been inactive for quite some time, you may still have a chance to register the entity name.
View additional business information
When you click on any of the entity names on the list, it will take you to a column displaying additional business information.
Business entity search by entity number
We’ll perform the California business entity search by entity number through the same Business Search on the California Secretary of State’s website we used for the search by corporation, LP, or LLC name.
Enter the entity number
Punch the entity number into the search bar and click the search icon.
Review the search results
There’ll be either one or no search results, depending on whether the entity number you’ve searched for belongs to a business entity in California or not.
Review the business information
The search results will show you all the key information about a business entity just like when we were searching by entity name. For additional information and free PDF copies of available imaged documents, click on the entity name.
Business entity search results
Irrespective of whether you search by entity name or entity number, you’ll have access to various business information.
Additionally, you’ll also get to see the standing status of the business in question. Let’s take a closer look at the information that will display along with the standing statuses and what they mean:
- Entity name: The business’s legal name or registered name
- Entity number: This is a unique ID number that the California Secretary of State issues to entities formed in the state
- Formed in: The state of incorporation
- Initial filing date: The date the business was filed with the Secretary of State.
- Entity type: Corporation, Limited Liability Company, Limited Liability Partnerships, General Partnerships, Nonprofit, etc.
- Registered agent: It is a legal requirement that all California businesses appoint a service of process or registered agent. This individual is ultimately the point of contact with the state.
- Mailing address: This is the mailing address or principal address of the business entity.
- Standing status:
- Good – These are entities that are in good standing with the state due to completing the necessary filings and paying the required state fees.
- Suspended – Companies that fail to file the Statement of Information Form have their status suspended by the CA Secretary of State.
- Canceled – These entities are canceled as payments for filing fees are not received.
- FTB suspended – These entities are suspended because they are not up to date with annual franchise tax payments owed to the California Tax Board.
- Inactive/Dissolved/Expired name – These business entities are no longer active in the state, no longer exist, or have failed to file their Statement of Information.
Copies of documents and certificates
Once you find the business information you’ve been searching for, you may wish to obtain copies of documents, status reports, or certificates. For example, you may want to get a Certificate of Status which basically verifies the status of the business, or get a Certificate of No Record that verifies that there is, in fact, no record of a specific business entity.
The documents that you may want to obtain copies of can be uncertified or certified and includes registration or formation documents, termination documents, amendment documents, and statements of information.
Status reports are also available, and they contain information like the complete business entity name, business status, phone number, address, and jurisdiction. To obtain the relevant documentation or reports, you’ll need to complete the Business Entities Order Form and submit it to the California Secretary of State’s office in person or by mail.
The full instructions on how to complete the document and submit it as well as the up-to-date listing of the relevant fees are available on the Secretary of State’s website.
Business name availability
Suppose you do not come across the selected business name while conducting the business entity search on the California Secretary of State’s website. In that case, it doesn’t necessarily mean that the name is indeed available.
One of the best ways to ensure that the name is available is to complete a name availability check. In California, the document is known as a Name Availability Inquiry Letter and will need to contain the requester’s name, fax number, phone number, and address, as well as the first, second, and third choice of name.
Once you’ve completed the Name Availability Inquiry Letter submit it to the California Secretary of State at the following address:
California Secretary of State
Attention: Name Availability Unit
1500 11th Street, 3rd Floor
Sacramento, CA 95814
Domain name availability
An important consideration when deciding on a California business name is whether or not it makes a good web domain name. Additionally, an URL that matches your business name well is essential. While it may sound like a small step, it can make a huge difference in how potential customers find your business.
You may also need to get creative as most of the .com domain names with six or fewer letters are already in use. One of the best websites to check domain availability is namechk.com.
It’s not only an excellent website that helps filter available domain names, but in the event that your selected domain name is not available, it also suggests alternatives that could be a good fit for your business.
Additionally, the .com domain extension is popular and widely used. However, extensions such as .io, .net, and .co are becoming increasingly popular as the Internet ages and could also be a great fit for your business name.
Fictitious business name search
You may also want to register a fictitious business name, also referred to as a DBA or “doing business as“ name in the state of California. The first step in determining whether your desired DBA name is indeed available is to search for the name on the name search page of the Los Angeles County Registrar-Recorder/County Clerk.
If the name is available, you can go ahead and register the DBA in California. Registration is always done in the county where business activities are conducted.
After you register your California DBA, you’ll need to also publish a fictitious business name statement on either a news website or a newspaper within 30 days of registration.
More information on this may be found on the California.gov Guide to DBAs. If the DBA is not available, then your creativity is needed to find another fictitious business name.
How do I find out if a business name is available in California?
One of the best ways to find out if a business name is available in the state of California is to conduct a business entity search on the Secretary of State’s website.
Can you look up a sole proprietorship in California?
Suppose you’re looking for a particular sole proprietorship in the state. In that case, you can search for the business using the company’s employer identification number or identification number given to them by the Secretary of State. In some cases, sole proprietorships use their private Social Security numbers instead.
How do I find a registered agent in California?
If you’re looking for a registered agent in the state of California, you’ll find the address of the registered agent on the Secretary of State’s business search portal. And available, you may find additional information on the state’s private service companies’ webpage.
How do I find a registered agent in California?
If you’re looking for a registered agent in the state of California, you’ll find the address of the registered agent on the Secretary of State’s business search portal. And available, you may find additional information on the state’s private service companies webpage.
How do I know if a business is a sole proprietorship in California?
One of the typical ways to tell if a business is a sole proprietorship or not is by looking at the business’s name. Sole proprietorships often operate under the owner’s business name. In some instances, they do also operate under a trade name or brand name.
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