North Carolina Business Entity Search (Step-by-Step Guide)

Last updated: June 19th, 2024
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The first step in starting a new business entity in the state of North Carolina, be it an LLC or a corporation, or any other business structure is verifying whether or not the name is available for use.

Additionally, all business names being registered in the state of North Carolina must be unique and adhere to state naming guidelines.

The following step-by-step guide will show you how to conduct a North Carolina business entity search.

North Carolina search tips

Make use of the following guidelines to ensure that you get the most accurate results during your North Carolina business name search:

  • Whether you use upper or lower case letters is irrelevant as all letters are treated as uppercase in the search.
  • If an organization’s name contains a few words, try searching just the first one or two words of the entity’s name.
  • Spaces should not be added or removed from company names during the search
  • Additional words should not be added to the name as it will alter the name of the company making your search redundant
  • Avoid the use of punctuation marks such as periods, apostrophes, and commas
  • Omit identifiers such as LP, LLC, Corp., etc.

Business search by name

To begin your search, refer to the North Carolina Secretary of State’s search page.

1
Enter the entity name

Once you visit the above-mentioned page, you will automatically land on the “Search by Company” option.

From the drop-down menu, you can select whether you want to search for companies whose names start with selected words, contains any or all selected words, and is an exact match. You can also search companies by SoS ID (Secretary of State Identification Number).

Enter the entity name.

Click Search.

2
Review the results

You’ll get a list with all records that match your search criteria, and if you’ve searched using SoS ID, you will either find the matching entity or not.

The list will show the entity name, date of formation, identification number, status, and type.

You’ll also see several icons you can use for different actions, such as ordering a document online, adding the entity to your email notification list, printing a pre-populated annual report form, or viewing document filings.

You’ll need to sign in to use some of these services.

3
Review additional business information

If you want to get detailed information about an entity, click on its name.

Now you’ll be able to see more details, including the office and/or mailing address, name of the registered agent, annual report due date, company officials, name of the registered agent, etc.

Business search by registered agent

The second search method we can use to perform a name search in the state is by registered agents.

1
Enter the agent’s name

From the first drop-down menu, select “Registered Agents” as your search criteria. A new search box will appear below. You can use it to select the search type (organization or individual). 

You may also select whether you want to search for names that:

  • Start with selected words
  • Contain any or all of the words
  • Name that is the exact match

Enter the name in the search box below and click “Search.” 

If you’ve selected an individual as the search type, you’ll be able to enter the first, middle, or last name of the person you’re looking up.

2
Review the results

You’ll get a list with all the names, as well as the total number of representations.

3
Click for more details

Click on any of the names for more details.

You’ll see a list of all the entities represented by this registered agent, as well as key information for each of the businesses listed.

You’ll then be able to add all listed entities to your email notification list.

Business search by company officials

You can also search businesses by their company officials. This method is similar to the previous one.

1
Enter the company official’s name

Change the search criteria to Company Officials.

Then select whether you’re looking for an organization or an individual. Also, refine the search by selecting whether the name:

  • Starts with the selected words
  • Contains any or all of them
  • Is an exact match

2
Review the results

As is the case with the “business search by the registered agent; if there are matching results, they will display along with the company officials and the number of representations.

3
Click the names for further info

Click on any of the names, and you’ll see their representations, as well as their role in each of the business entities.

Business search by assumed business name

The final way to search for business entities in North Carolina is by assumed business names.

1
Select the assumed business name option

Select ”Assumed Business Name” from the drop-down menu and wait for the search boxes to change.

2
Enter assumed name

Enter the assumed name, SOSID, or owner, according to the provided instructions below the search box.

You can select the start and end dates to only include assumed names who have filed a document during the selected time frame.

To include all businesses, just leave these boxes blank.

Select counties to search.

If you don’t select anything, all counties will be searched.

Click “Search.”

3
Review the results

You’ll get a list with names and identification numbers.

4
Click to view detailed info

For more information, click on the specific name of your choice.

You’ll then see the date when the information was entered into the SoS statewide database of assumed business name information, including the owner’s name, the county where it was filed, and the Assumed Business Names Certificate, available in PDF.

Business search results

The business entity database displays several pieces of information about relevant businesses. Some of the info includes:

  • Legal organization name
  • Registered agent’s information – Registered agent’s details, including their home address, as that address becomes public information.
  • Status – Current – Active means the entity is conducting business, is in good standing, and all filing fees and reports are up to date. Other results include “Admin. Dissolved”, “Dissolved,” and “Withdrawn,” among others. The entity names may be available for business registration.
  • Business entity type – Corporation, Limited Partnership, Limited Liability Company, Limited liability partnership, etc.
  • Company officials – Names of the officers and their titles.
  • Principal office address – This could be the address where business records are stored or the company’s official principal address.

Copies of documents and certificates

Once you have done the relevant name searches, you may be interested in obtaining certified copies of business documents and certificates. The only way to obtain this information is from the NC Secretary of State – Business Registration Division.

Some of the most frequently requested documents include the Articles of Incorporation, Articles of Amendment, and annual reports. These documents may also be certified.

In order to get a hold of these certified copies of business documentation, use the following information to reach out to the North Carolina Secretary Of State – Business Registration Division and request the relevant information:

Physical address:
2 South Salisbury Street
Raleigh, NC 27601-2903

Mailing address:
PO Box 29622
Raleigh, NC 27626-0622

Phone: 919-814-5400
Fax: 919-807-2039

Business name availability

After conducting the North Carolina business entity search, you’ll know whether the desired name is available or is in use by an existing business. If the name is not available, it could mean that you need to go back to the drawing board to come up with consolations.

However, if the name is indeed available for business registration in the state, but you’re not quite ready to form your business, you can always go ahead and reserve the name.

The state allows you to reserve the name until you are prepared for the business registration process.

To begin with, you’ll need to fill out the Application to Reserve a Business Entity Name with the North Carolina state office. When completing the Form, you will be required to provide the following information:

  • The name you wanted to reserve
  • Address of the applicant
  • Name of the applicant
  • Signature of the applicant
  • Date of reservation filing

Additionally, there is a filing fee of $30 that is payable to the Department of the Secretary of State for the name reservation application.

Once you’ve completed the Form, you can either upload the application directly to the Secretary of State’s website or have the Form mailed to the North Carolina Corporations Division at the below mailing address:

P.O. Box 29622 Raleigh
NC 27626-0622

Domain name availability

While deciding on an ideal name is the goal, a suitable domain name is just as important. A company name establishes your business’s identity and brand; however, a domain name ensures that you have an online presence.

So equal consideration should go into finding a suitable domain name for your North Carolina business.

One of the best ways to ensure that the domain name you are considering is available is to do a domain name check on the namechk.com website. This website is a professional service that ultimately offers suggestions for relevant domain names and filters them, making it easier to find your ideal North Carolina domain name.

Fictitious business name search

Another important consideration is registering a DBA name in North Carolina. A DBA is short for “doing business as” name, which is also known by other names such as assumed, fictitious, or trade names. It is best to register a fictitious name with the state if you plan on conducting business under this assumed name.

Once the name is registered with the state, it will allow you to legally operate under that specific name aside from being able to transact under your legal entity name. 

Start by conducting a DBA name search on the North Carolina Secretary of State website. This will help you determine whether or not the name is actually available to be used as a fictitious name with the state. 

When searching for your selected or desired fictitious names, ensure that they do not include any words that may imply that your business is associated with financial institutions, government agencies, medical schemes, etc.

The final step in registering your assumed name with the state’s office is completing the Assumed Business Name Certificate Form. Some of the information you need to include is as follows:

  • Type of business
  • County where the fictitious name will be used to transact
  • The street address of the official place of business or principal address

Once the Form is complete, you can submit it to your County’s Register of Deeds Office along with the filing fee of $26.

FAQs

How do I find out who owns an LLC in North Carolina?

The best way to find out who owns a North Carolina LLC or limited liability company is to perform a business name search on the Secretary of State’s website. Matching search results will display a variety of information, including the business owner’s name.

How do I start a business in North Carolina?

In order to start a business in North Carolina, you will need to file formation documents with the state, register for business tax, acquire the relevant business licenses and applicable permits and obtain an EIN from the Internal Revenue Service, IRS.

How do I find a registered agent in North Carolina?

When conducting a name search on the Secretary of State’s website, searching for a registered agent is one of the search criteria. So if you have the name, entity number of the business, or any other relevant information, you’ll be able to find the registered agent for that specific business.

How do I get a copy of my Articles of Organization?

The Secretary of State keeps a business registry containing all registered businesses in the state, including documentation filed by each business. So if you’ve misplaced your Articles of Organization, you can send a request to the Secretary of State to issue you with a copy of the Articles of Organization.

How do I find a business name?

You can find a company name by using the search tool on the Secretary of State’s website. If the name you’re planning on registering is already taken, then you can also use a company name generator to spark your creativity.

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