How to look up an LLC in California

Need to look up an LLC registered in California? Follow these search tips to help ensure you get the best search results from the Business Entities section of the California Secretary of State.

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Five coworkers are meeting around a table in their new office after forming an LLC.

by Siege Media, contributor to LegalZoom
updated January 06, 2023 ·  4min read

In California, all business entities must register with the secretary of state. Founding information is stored in a database that is accessible to the public, making California LLC lookups a simple process.

Keep reading to learn how you can conduct a quick, free, and easy business search.

How to look up an LLC in California

To perform a California LLC search, navigate to the Business Search page on the California secretary of state's website and select the Limited Liability Company/Limited Partnership Name option.

You can choose to use either the basic search feature or the advanced search.

1. Gather info needed to conduct the search

Since you can complete a search with just a name, chances are you won't need to collect much information. But if you're struggling to find a company using California's business search, you can find helpful information through:

  • Business licenses
  • Federal tax returns
  • Bank statements
  • Articles of organization

2. Enter business information

To find a California business using a basic search, you only need the company's name or entity number. You can use the advanced search if you don't have that information or the results are too broad. 

Here are your advanced search options:

  • Search filter: If you don't know a business's full name, select “Contains (Keywords)" or “Starts with." Then type in any part of the name you do remember to see a list of companies that include that keyword.
  • Entity type: Select the business type, registration status, and filing date to view businesses and refine results.
  • Publicly traded disclosure search: Search for a business name by entering a filing date, relevant disclosures, executive officer name, compensation, board director details, or the independent auditor's name.

Tip: If you're searching for a limited liability company, you can't use any words that indicate that it operates under any other business structure. The business name must end with LLC, Ltd., Liability Co., L.L.C., or some other iteration.

3. Review and filter results

Once you complete a search, you will see details about the following:

  • Entity information
  • Initial filing date
  • Registration status
  • Entity type
  • State formed in
  • Agent

Tip: If you see too many results, you can click the triangles on each column to sort them.

4. Request certificate

Once you locate the correct business, you can click on the blue box in the first column to expand the registration and review details. Here, you can choose to request a business certificate or review the following information:

  • Initial filing date
  • Registration status
  • SOS (Status of Standing)
  • FTB (Franchise Tax Board) standing
  • Agent standing
  • VCFCF (Victims of Corporate Fraud Compensation Fund) standing
  • State formed in
  • Entity type
  • Principal address
  • Mailing address
  • Statement of info due date
  • Agent name and address

California business entity search alternatives

If you don't find the business you're looking for through a business search or want to ensure there aren't any unregistered businesses under a specific name, you can check business documents or search online.

Check business documents

Once you've found the information you need—or if you're still searching—you may want to choose to obtain certificates, copies of documents, or status reports. Some documents you may want copies of, either certified or uncertified, include:

  • Certificate of status: This certifies the current registration status of the LLC.
  • Certificate of no record: Indicates that there is no record of a particular business entity.
  • Formation and registration documents: Articles of incorporation or other key documents a business entity creates while forming.
  • Termination documents: Outlines the cancellation of a contract.
  • Statements of information: Disclosure of a company's actions over the past year.
  • Status reports: Contains information such as the complete entity name, file number, status, jurisdiction, and address of a business.

In order to obtain certificates, copies of documents, or status reports, you will need to fill out the Business Entities Records—Order Form (PDF) and submit it to the California secretary of state's Sacramento office either in person or by mail.

You will find full instructions on submitting requests for documents, certificates, or status reports in the form, along with a current listing of the applicable fees.

Online searches

If you're looking for someone else's business and don't have access to their documents, you can try searching for them on social media or look through business listings like:

  • Facebook
  • Apple Maps
  • Google Maps
  • Yelp
  • MapQuest

It's generally best practice to start by searching for a company name. However, you can also find businesses by searching for:

  • Owner, exec, and stakeholder names
  • Mailing address
  • Entity number
  • Industry and city

California business entity search FAQ

Uncover the answers to frequently asked questions about California business searches.

Are all California businesses on the registry?

California requires all corporations, limited partnerships, and LLCs to register with the California secretary of state (CA SOS). Sole proprietorships are generally exempt from this requirement.

What is the purpose of a business search?

Doing a business search can ensure that you land on a unique name for your new business or help you find important details about your company if you misplace your business certificate.

Need to register an LLC in California?

Open your business today and register an LLC. You need the following to apply for a California LLC :

Then you can rely on LegalZoom's network of attorneys for help:

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About the Author

Siege Media, contributor to LegalZoom

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This portion of the site is for informational purposes only. The content is not legal advice. The statements and opinions are the expression of the author, not LegalZoom, and have not been evaluated by LegalZoom for accuracy, completeness, or changes in the law.