Wisconsin Business Entity Search (Step-by-Step Guide)

Last updated: June 19th, 2024
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If you plan on starting a new business in the state of Wisconsin, the first thing you’ll need to do is conduct a business name search on the Secretary of State’s website. This will ensure that your desired name is not in use by another business registered in the state. https://secretaryofstates.com/wisconsin/

You’ll need to determine whether your name is taken or available prior to filing a name reservation request. The most effective way to find the information you’re looking for is when you search for an entity name, excluding identifiers such as LLC, LP, Corp., etc. This will give you the best possible and broadest search results.

The following step-by-step guide will show you how to conduct a business name search in Wisconsin.

Wisconsin search tips

The following tips and guidelines will ensure you get the best possible results when conducting a business name search in Wisconsin:

  • There’s no need to use upper or lower case letters in your search as all letters are treated as uppercase.
  • For the best results, try searching using the organization name.
  • If the company name contains a few words, try searching just the first one or two words of the name.
  • Do not add or remove spaces that are contained in company names.
  • You should also not add words that will change or alter the name of the company in any way.
  • Singular and plural keywords are not relevant.
  • Leave out identifiers such as Corp, LLC, LP, etc. for the best results
  • Leave out any punctuation marks such as commas, apostrophes, and periods.

Business search by name

To begin your Wisconsin organization name search, refer to the Wisconsin Secretary of State – Business Search webpage.

Enter the entity name

Enter the desired name into the search bar and click on the Search Records button.

Review the results

The information that will be displayed if there are matching results includes the company:

  • ID Number
  • Name
  • Effectively just to date
  • Type
  • Status

If there are no records that match the name you’ve entered, you’ll see a message that says, “sorry, your search returned no records.”

In some cases, you could have misspelled the entity name so check the spelling of the name if no records are found. Alternatively, try using fewer words or adding additional words if you were searching for initials, letters, or abbreviations only.

You can always try an advanced search if your search is still bringing up no records.

Review additional business information

To access further information about an entity, click on the company name. On this page, you’ll see a period of existence, the registered agent’s office, the principal office address, and historical information.

Advanced search

If the basic search doesn’t give the expected results, you can try Advanced Search by clicking on this link.

Enter the business name

Start by clicking on the search box and entering the desired name. Further, refine your search by specifying whether you are searching for:

  • Names that start with the keywords you’re looking up
  • The exact words of the keyword
  • All the keywords

Your search can be narrowed down even further by selecting the names of registered agents or business entities.

You can select entity status, which could be:

  • In existence
  • No longer in existence
  • Both

You may also narrow down the search by selecting the:

  • Current name
  • Old name
  • Both

Additionally, select the type of entity you’re searching for and the possible business registration dates. Once you’ve refined the search, click on the Search Records button.

Review the results

You may then review the results that are displayed in the table. For additional details on any business entity, click on the hyperlink to the business’s name.

When using the registered agent name, only the current names of the agents are searched for. You may also try variations of the names to get different results. Another suggestion is to try searching individual names without spaces and apostrophes.

Name availability search

The name availability search is essential when it comes to determining whether or not a selected name is available for registration in the state.

Enter the desired name

Click on the search bar and type the name you‘d like to register. Click on the Search Records button.

Review the results

If the name is available, you’ll see the following message, “No records appear to conflict with the name you entered.”

Alternatively, suppose another entity already registers the name. In that case, you’ll see a message that says, “The record(s) in the search results below appear to conflict with the name you entered for availability.”

You can also view the:

  • Entity ID
  • Type
  • Name
  • Status
  • Registered effective date
  • Status date

For additional information, click on the entity name.

Business search results

The information that will be returned on both the basic and advanced searches include:

  • Name of the Entity
  • DFI Entity ID Number
  • Type of the Entity
  • Status and Status Date
  • Registered Effective Date

Additional information displayed includes:

  • Historical information includes annual reports, certificates of newly elected officers or directors, old names, and chronology.
  • Vital Statistics includes all the essential information, in addition to the period of existence and annual report requirements
  • Addresses include the registered agent office and principal office.

Copies of documents and certificates

After conducting a business name search in Wisconsin, you may want to request certified copies of business documents. Some of the documents that you may request from the Secretary of State include:

  • Articles of formation
  • Certificate of status/authority
  • Articles of amendment
  • Annual filings, like annual reports
  • Mergers
  • Dissolution and withdrawals
  • A trade name or DBA (doing business as) registration

The only way to obtain documents of this nature is to request them from the Wisconsin Department of Financial Institutions Division of Corporate and Consumer Services Operations Bureau.

You can request copies of business documents by using the following information:

Physical address:
4822 Madison Yards Way, North Tower
Madison, WI 53705

Mailing address:
Box 93348
Milwaukee, WI 53293

Phone: 608-261-7577
Fax: 608-267-6813

Business name availability

It’s important to note that although a company name may not come up on the search results when conducting the name availability search, it’s no indication that the name is available to be registered. Ultimately, it is the state that determines whether or not you will be able to register that name to your business.

And something else you should be aware of is that, unlike other states, Wisconsin does not allow name reservation requests online.

Instead, you will need to mail in your name reservation request in a printed application. This consists of a form containing two pages that you need to complete for your selected name and is referred to as a Name Reservation Application Form. To obtain a Name Reservation Application Form, you need to contact the Department of Financial Institutions.

When completing the Name Reservation Application Form, enter the following information:

  • The name of the business you wish to reserve
  • The full name and address of the applicant
  • The type of business you intend on registering
  • The applicant signature
  • Phone number of the applicant

Please also note that there are fees involved when it comes to processing the application as well as reserving the desired Wisconsin business name. The fee ultimately depends on your entity type and could be anywhere between $10-$15. It is payable to the Wisconsin Department of Financial Institutions, and you should mail a check with your completed reservation form to the address below:

Wisconsin Department of Financial Institutions
4822 Madison Yards Way
North Tower Madison
WI 53705

The requested corporation or LLC name will be reserved for a period of 120 days. Additionally, the state of Wisconsin will allow you to reserve the name for a longer period of time, and all you need to do is modify the form. If you’ll need a longer name reservation, then the fee for an extended reservation is $50.

Domain name availability

Domain names are just as important as corporate business names simply because they play a huge role in your marketing strategy and success. Therefore, if you find a suitable business name, try to ensure that it is available as a domain name as well.

One of the best ways to do this is to use a domain name checker like namechk.com. This is a professional service that filters domain names and also offers suggestions for relevant or applicable domain names.

Ultimately, registering a domain name will ensure that you establish your brand and online presence as you will attract more traffic and have the opportunity to convert this traffic into profit. Ultimately, investing in a domain name is one of the best decisions you can make from a marketing point of view.

Fictitious business name search

If you plan on using any other name to conduct business besides your legal entity name, then Wisconsin law dictates that you must have a DBA. In addition to being able to operate legally under your fictitious business name, you’ll also be able to write contracts and open bank accounts with a DBA name.

The process starts with checking whether or not the DBA is available for use in the state. The Wisconsin Public Records Database is a good place to start.

Additionally, when registering a fictitious name in the state, it is required by law that the name be distinguishable from other registered entities.

When it comes to registering DBAs for Wisconsin corporations, the name will need to be significantly different from other fictitious names across a variety of different business structures operating within the state of Wisconsin.

The Secretary of State contains more information on how to register for DBA.


How do I look up a business in Wisconsin?

To conduct a business name search or look up a business entity in the state of Wisconsin, refer to the Wisconsin Secretary of State business search website. The search tool available on the search page will give you all the information you need to determine whether or not the business name is available.

Where can I find Articles of Organization in Wisconsin?

Articles of Organization and other copies of business documents may only be obtained from the Secretary of State. In order to request these documents, you’ll need to reach out to the Secretary of State’s office and put in a request.

Do you need a business license in Wisconsin?

No general business operating license is issued on the state level by Wisconsin. However, depending on the type of business you’re running, you may need special business licenses, localized operating licenses, and tax registrations to operate in the state legally.

What is the cost of a business license in Wisconsin?

The is no set filing fee to obtain business licenses in Wisconsin. Instead, it all depends on the type of business you’re requesting the license for, and it could cost anywhere between $15-$1500 depending on the type of business you have.

What is the difference between an LLC and an LLP in Wisconsin?

A Wisconsin LLC, which is a limited liability company, may be formed by filing Articles of Organization with the state’s office and paying the relevant filing fee. An LLP or limited liability partnership, on the other hand, is a general partnership that contains liability protection for business partners.

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