Every business entity in California is registered with the California Secretary of State. The SOS maintains a database and allows public access to it for facilitating California Business Entity Search.
It’s a useful tool that comes in handy for anyone looking to start a California LLC and also for the regular operation of the business. When you’re forming an LLC, the CA business search is invaluable in deciding on a name for your business.
This tool makes it easy to find a name for your business. California requires that the name of your business be unique and distinguishable upon record. Doing a business entity search in California ensures that you can pick a name that fulfills these criteria.
Accessing California Secretary Of State Business Search
California Business Entity Search offers three general options to refine your search type. If you’re searching for an existing entity, you’ll need the entity’s name or entity number. Those searching for a name for their new LLC (or business) can try searching the intended name.
The tool for the California Secretary Of State Business Search requires selecting one of the following Search Types.
- Entity Number
- LP/LLC Name
- Corporation Name
For existing entities, CA business entity search can provide free PDF copies of imaged business entity documents.
California Entity Number Search
This search best applies to already existing entities. An entity number is issued to businesses once they are registered with the California SOS. Using the entity number is a quicker way to find the desired business entity, as compared to using the name. Here’s how you can use this tool.
- An entity number will always be an exact match. You cannot have a general range of numbers.
- For California corp lookup, the entity number will require eight characters. The first character is the letter “C” followed by seven digits of the entity number.
- For a California Limited Liability Company or Limited Liability Partnership, the entity number has 12 digits.
Consider the following as an example of searching for Corporations in California, using the CA Business Search.
If you enter 3831672 on the search tool, there will be no results. However, entering C3831672 will show you the details of Alphabet Inc., a corporation authorized to do business in California. As an aside, Alphabet Inc. mentioned here is the parent company of Google.
California LLC Search (Name of LLC/LP)
While the entity number search is exact and quick, it’s not the most convenient option. This is especially true if you’re looking for a name to set up your new LLC. After all, we know businesses by their names, not by the entity numbers issued by the SOS.
California LLC Search offers three options to refine your search and make the process easier.
- Keyword: This will look for a specific word within all existing names. For example, you could use the keyword “construction” to see LLCs/LPs that use the word construction in their name. It is possible to use multiple keywords, but each keyword shouldn’t exceed 12 characters.
- Exact: This looks for an exact match of the search term entered. You must enter the exact name of the business entity.
- Begins With: Enter one or more words to search for an LLC or LP. The search will look for entities that have their names starting with the entered query.
Once you’ve entered the search criteria and the desired search filter, click on the “Search” button to view any available results.
California Corporation Name Search
This works exactly like the LLC Search explained above. However, using this term will show the Corporations as its results, while the LLC Search shows existing LLCs and LPs.
Some Quick Facts About California SOS Business Search
Here are a few things to know about the SOS Business Search in California:
- The search is not case-sensitive and defaults to all uppercase letters. For example, searching for Abc or abc are both treated as searches for ABC.
- Common punctuation like periods, commas, quotes, slashes, and parenthesis are ignored.
- Some common words like California, &, Incorporated, LLC, and similar are ignored.
- Spacing is important and spaces between words are not ignored.
Limitations Of The California Business Entity Search
There are a few limitations to consider when you use the business entity search tool.
Currently, the online database doesn’t contain information related to limited liability partnerships, associations, general partnerships, and a few other entities. To obtain information about such entities, you’ll have to file a Business Entities Records Request Form. There is an associated filing fee for this form, though the amount depends on the type of information you need, the number of pages, and the number of copies required.
The California SOS website also says that the Business Entity Search isn’t the definitive tool to ascertain name availability. The names aren’t checked against trademarks, service marks, or fictitious business names. Additional checks may be necessary if you’re searching for a suitable name to set up your business entity.
You can check for name availability by filing a Name Availability Inquiry Letter. Filing this form will let you check the availability of up to three names for your business entity. This form can only be submitted via mail. Once you’ve completed the form, mail it with a self-addressed envelope and the filing fee to:
Secretary of State,
Name Availability Unit,
1500 11th Street, 3rd Floor,
Sacramento, CA 95814
How To Reserve A Business Name In California
Effective January 1, 2021, California requires that the name of a business entity be truly unique and distinguishable from an existing entity of the same type. So, an LLC must not have a name that is very similar to a pre-existing LLC. Additionally, the name shouldn’t be likely to mislead the public.
Is It Mandatory To Reserve An Entity Name In California?
No, the state of California doesn’t require you to reserve a name for your business entity. But as we see here, it can take some serious effort to find a name that fits your business just right. It might take a lot of time and effort to find a suitable business name.
It might be worthwhile to reserve the name quickly so that you don’t lose it and to prevent anyone else from grabbing it.
How Long Does A Name Reservation Last And What Is Its Cost?
In California, a name reservation lasts for 60 days once approved. Filing the form costs $10.
You can renew your name reservation, however, it cannot be consecutive. Once the 60 days are up, you’ll have to wait at least one day before the name reservation is renewed for you. This means you should be very careful when looking for a name reservation renewal. There’s a chance that someone else will reserve or use the name during the time gap required between consecutive renewals.
Reserving A Business Name In California
California currently doesn’t accept email or online requests for name reservation. You will have to file the Name Reservation Request Form via postal mail or in-person drop-off. It’s worth noting that an in-person drop-off will require a $10 special handling fee in addition to the submission fee of the form. This fee will have to be paid through a separate check.
The form is available in a pdf version on the California SOS website. You can download, complete, and print the form.
The form allows you to enter up to three names in order of preference. Only one name will be reserved, following the chosen order.
For example, if the first name is available for reservation, the other two will not be considered. However, if the first choice isn’t available, the second will be considered for reservation, and so on. If none of the choices are available, the name reservation cannot be completed.
When submitting the form via postal mail, you can send it along with a self-addressed envelope and filing fee to:
Secretary of State,
1500 11th Street, 3rd Floor,
Sacramento, CA 95814.
Apart from the above address, in-person drop-off can also be made at the following address:
300 South Spring Street,
Los Angeles, CA 90013.
Remember to use the California Business Entity Search on the three names you enter on this form. That way, you have a better chance of approval considering there have been preliminary checks to ensure that the chosen names are unique and distinguishable.
Interestingly, California doesn’t consider name reservation to be a guarantee of compliance with California’s naming regulations. The name will have to go through the rigors of compliance checks when you file the LLC’s Articles of Organization with the California Secretary of State.