There are many situations in which you might want or need to look up a California LLC's status, business name, or LLC name on the California Secretary of State's database. A California LLC search can help you learn important information about a company, LLC, or corporation in the state. This article gives step-by-step instructions for how to do so.
California business registration requirements
Most business types must register their business name along with other legal documents with the California Secretary of State (the government entity that registers businesses in the state of California) in order to legally do business in the state. California code requires all limited liability companies (LLCs) register their LLC name with the state before beginning to do business. Limited partnerships (LPs), S corporations, C corporations, and professional corporations must also register their corporation name.
Once a California LLC or other business entity type registers an LLC name, its status is visible in the state's database of LLC names. The information located there is available to the public for free and can be easily searched online.
Businesses in California must file other documents in addition to the name they will use for their company. An LLC must file articles of organization. A corporation must file articles of incorporation. The state of California provides forms you can use, and you can get help from a business formation service if you are not sure how to complete the state forms and meet the state requirements. You also must pay a fee when you register a business with the state of California. A business also needs an employer identification number (EIN) from the IRS. This is free to obtain.
How to search for a California business
To do an entity search or to search for an LLC that is an existing business that is registered in the state of California, you need to know the business name or entity number. To start this search process, go to the Secretary of State's business search page. Type in the business name or entity number, or file number (do not type in the “C" that comes before the entity number) in the search bar. Click search.
The entity search results will show the businesses registered in that business name, LLC name, corporation name, or with that entity number or filing number. When you are searching, it will display:
- When the company filed its documents
- The company's current status with the state
- The entity type of the business is formed as
- The state the business is formed in
- The name and address of its required registered agent
You can also do a corporation search process for existing businesses using the same method.
Advanced search feature for California business entity
If your entity search returns too many results for California business entities, you can use the "advanced search" button to narrow the search down for an LLC name or corporation name and search by keyword or a word the company's business name starts with. This will help you focus your search and home in on the information you're looking for.
You also have the option to search for business entity information, and you can narrow down the entity types you want to search as well as the status you want to search. Alternatively, you can limit the search to a certain time period within which the California LLC initially filed its documentation with the state.
If you are looking for a corporation, you can limit the search to publicly traded disclosures, such as bankruptcy or legal proceedings and other certain documents. You can just search by the director's or executive's names if you wish (but you cannot search for an LLC's members in this way). It's also possible to search by how many female or underrepresented directors are on the board of the corporation. The "advanced search" also allows a search using the name of an independent auditor involved with the corporation.
The search does not show you who the business' insurance company is, government affiliation, insurance risks, or information about its economic development.
Determining if your existing California business entity is still active
If you created an LLC in California but are not sure if it is currently active or if your California LLC name is valid, follow the steps above to search its status with the California Secretary of State. The search results will show you if your business and business name are currently active with the state. If it is suspended or terminated, you can then take steps to bring it into compliance by filing the necessary paperwork and paying the required fees to the state.
Determining ownership of a California LLC
If you would like to find out who owns a California LLC name, this information is not available on the Secretary of State's database page. You can file a Business Entities Records order form with the Business Programs Division government agency of the state's office to obtain information about your own LLC's owners, but you cannot file this for someone else's LLC.
The document that lists the names of the members or owners of a California LLC is the Statement of Information. However, California does not make LLC member names, contact information, or personal addresses public. You can contact the registered agent or the company's contact information on their website if you need more information.
Do a business entity California LLC search before you register a business
If you are thinking of starting a California LLC, small business, or new business entity, you want to be sure that the desired business name you choose for your company has not been taken or used by another company. If the name is already in use, you will not be allowed to register your company using that business name or one that is deceptively similar. You need to do an availability search to determine this.
Do an entity name search of the business names you are considering on the Secretary of State's database to find out what is available before you decide on a name for your own LLC. If a business entity is already using the business name you searched for, you will need to select another business name for your own business entity. You may have to search several business names to find one that is available. It's a good idea to come up with several alternatives.
The search will also help you in selecting domain names as well as choosing your company name. You don't want to choose domain names that are too similar to the names of other companies because of the possibility of confusion. Searching existing company names on file with the state of California will help you eliminate the ones that are in use and not available.
If you pay an LLC formation business to help you search business names, you can deduct that expense for tax purposes. Don't forget to name a registered agent when you register your company.
California business name search for legitimacy
If you are wondering if a California LLC or other small business in the state is legitimate, you can run a California LLC name search or business search on the California Secretary of State's database. The instructions appear earlier in this article. The California business name database will tell you if a company with that business name is registered in California and if its registration is active, terminated, or suspended.
A California business that is not listed in the database may be a legitimate sole proprietorship or partnership, but if it does not appear in the database with a business entity name, it is not an active LLC or corporation in the state of California.
How to obtain information about a limited liability company other than through a California business entity search
If you would like to learn more about a California LLC business entity, you can do a California business entity search to see if it has officially registered for business licenses or DBAs (“doing business as" or fictitious business name registrations). To do so, you need to search the county's fictitious business name register or the government agency that issues the license in question. You also can do a business search on Google to see if the limited liability company has appeared in any news stories. You can read the company's website for information as well.
A California LLC search allows you to learn important details about existing companies and business entities, determine if a name you would like to use is in use, or learn the status of your own LLC with the state. An LLC name search is easy to do and provides useful information.
Find out more about starting an LLC in California