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Where to Find the Secretary of State Business Search: State-by-State

The secretary of state maintains a database of all business entities registered within its borders. At first glance, there might be nothing to this public record. But if you have a business, or ever dreamed of starting one, you want to understand more about this government office.

Depending on the state, this database can show the status of a business, whether it is active, inactive, or in good standing. A database search can also allow a business owner to file required documentation such as an annual report. It can help you decide if the person that you met at the grocery store, who has a tire company, is worth doing business with. If the company is registered, yes, you think. If not, probably no.

Keep reading to learn the how’s and why’s behind running a database search, and the specifics of conducting one in each of the 50 states.

What is the secretary of state’s registry of businesses?

The secretary of state registry is a database with all the businesses that conduct business in a particular state, whether domestic or foreign. A business registry will contain information about a business’s status, entity type, registered agent, among other details. It may show the address, and date of incorporation as well. Exact details listed may vary from state to state.

In addition, a tool to search the availability of business names may exist, depending on the state. If the name is not registered, a business owner can use this name for his or her company.

When to use a secretary of state business search

Let’s take a look at a few scenarios when an individual will search a database from the office of the secretary of state.

Pre-registration research for a business name

Before you can register a new business, you may have to make sure that the name isn’t already being used by another business entity. To do this, search the name you want to use in a name availability search tool if your secretary of state provides one. If the name is available, the business owner can register this name in a particular state. A number of states conveniently offer a name check tool online.

To check if business is in good standing

A business with good standing is up-to-date with taxes and fees in its respective state. This status will be useful for business decisions such as securing a loan, securing government contracts and opening a bank account. If a business doesn’t have good standing, it can do the necessary work to fulfill the requirements, such as filing an annual report or getting current on taxes.

To learn more about a business

A potential customer, vendor or supplies may want to learn more about your small business. Similar to how employers can use Google to vet potential candidates, a potential client can do the same for a business. Seeing a business with a registered NAICS code, date of formation, or type of business might be the vote of confidence an interested party needs in order to conduct business with you.

How to do a secretary of state business search

Here is a list of state requirements for doing a database search state by state from Alabama to Wyoming.

Alabama

Alabama provides an online database for business owners where they can search by entity name, entity ID, and agent, to name a few. Results show the status of a business entity, with additional details on each individual business page. Reserve a name or register a business entity through the secretary of state’s online services page. Domestic filings are $200.00 plus a county fee which varies. Reserving a name is $25.00.

Alaska

Check the availability of a name through the state’s search corporations database using an entity name or number. The search can also be narrowed down by words a business name contains or begins with to filter results. Name reservation protects a name for up to 120 days. Registering the name grants exclusive rights for five years. Both services are $25.00.

Arizona

Run a business entity search through the Arizona Corporations Commission’s eCorp page. Options for the search include “starts with,” “contains” and “exact match.” Searches can be filtered to return domestic or foreign entities. Checking for name availability also exists on this page. For more information on choosing a name and registering a business, refer to the 10 Steps to Starting a Business in Arizona Guide.

Arkansas

Search a business of fictitious name on Arkansas’s business search online with the option to include corporation type. The secretary of state in Arkansas also has a unique service that allows certain subscribers to further refine their search and create segmented lists by status, date range, city and other criteria. A subscriber can receive up to 100 entries for $10.00, with a $10.00 fee for up to 100 entries more. Register a business as well through the corporations online filing system. The fee is $150.00 for for-profit businesses with authorized stock and $300.00 for for-profit businesses without authorized stock.

California

Look up a business through the state’s business search, with the name availability check also on this page. Search using a keyword, “begins with” and “exact spelling.” The site offers search tips such as understanding that some kinds of punctuation won’t be counted. For example, periods aren’t counted (i.e. R.U.N. returns both R.U.N. and RUN). Also, business designations aren’t counted either, so writing LLC after a business name is unnecessary. You can also mail a name availability inquiry letter to:

Secretary of State

Name Availability Unit

1500 11th Street, 3rd Floor

Sacramento, CA 95814

Connecticut

Search for an entity doing business in the state through its business inquiry search tool. Filter searches by entity name, business ID and filing number.  A business can also use the business startup tool for a step-by-step guide for running a business search, selecting and registering a business type, information on licenses and permits, trademarks and how to secure a certificate of existence.

Delaware

Searching for a business through Delaware’s general information name search also requires a filing number in addition to a name. If a business owner simply wants to check for name availability, Delaware’s name availability search is an easier way. Select the entity type – such as corporation, statutory trust or limited partnership – and the name. Available names can be reserved for $75.00. Register a business through Delaware’s one-stop business registration and licensing portal.

District of Columbia

Run a quick search to access licenses, registrations and certificates. Or, perform a detailed database search, which allows access to a more extensive search if you have a registered account. This login also allows business owners to register a business, request a certificate of good standing and file biennial reports. Business registration is $55.00 with other fees listed on the general corporate filing fee schedule.

Florida

Run a business search through Sunbiz.org. Search using entity name, trademark name, officer/registered agent and a number of other search options. Florida offers a four-step guide for starting a business, with the option of registering a business online or via mail for non-profit and for-profit corporations, LLCs and partnerships. Filing fees vary.

Georgia

The first stop business guide offers an all-in-one location for business registration, business searches, forms and filing fees for entrepreneurs in Georgia. Check for name availability through a business search. Then register for a business through “Online Services” from the corporations division homepage, which also provides information on certificates of existence and filing an annual registration. A fee list is also noted in the guide.

Hawaii

Check for business names using the state’s business search. Results can be filtered by words a business begins with or contains. Register a business through the Hawai’i Business Express (HBE) portal. The tool requires a Hawai’i government account.

Idaho

Run a business search through Idaho’s search for business entities. For more search results, search for only part of a name or include the word “or” in a search for results that include both words. To narrow a search, use “and,” and exact phrases. Also fill out more search fields for more specific results. Register a business with the Idaho Business Registration System.

Illinois

Run a corporations/LLC business search with the option to search for corporations and LLCs, corporations only and LLCs only. Online requests for certificates of good standing can also be made through this portal. You can file annual reports here as well. After running a name search, the business services page offers information on articles of incorporation and organization, certificates of good standing and annual reports.

Indiana

Use Indiana’s secretary of state’s InBiz platform to run a business search. Advanced search options include searching by business type, status and name type. The regular search also includes the options of searching for “exact match,” “contains” or “starts with.” To net more search results, search with the singular version of a word to get results with the both the plural and singular forms of the word. Also, search for both “&” and “and” to cast a wider net for search results. Register a business through the InBiz starting my business page.

Iowa

Iowa has a basic business search tool that allows you to run a partial search. For instance, the word “now” would result in “now” or “nowhere” in its name. Register your business entity through the FastTrack filing system. Select forms are also downloadable and can be accessed through the business entity forms and fees page.

Kentucky

Run a partial- or full-name business search through the FastTrack business organization search. A name check can also be done through the name availability search. Register a business through the Kentucky one-stop business portal. The tool also has an FAQ link that addresses other services it provides. A name can be reserved for up to 120 days using the reservation or renewal of reserved name form for $15.00.

Kansas

The secretary of state’s business entity search station maintains a number of different databases including one for business entities and another for checking name availability. Business entity searches include searching by name and keyword. Name reservation isn’t required for starting a business, but corporations and other entities should reserve a name to secure a name if extra time will be needed to complete paperwork. If a name is available, an option to reserve the name is displayed. Name reservations can be filed by paper for $35.00 or online for $30.00. Additional fees are listed online as well.

Louisiana

Search Louisiana’s business filings to make sure another business doesn’t already have a name you want and to learn more about a particular business. For fewer search results, use the full name of the business. To register your business, follow the step-by-step guide from the GeauxBiz platform.

Maine

Run a business search through the state’s corporate name search tool. Narrow search results with words that aren’t as common or using word combinations. The new business FAQs page provides answers to questions for new business owners such as how to register a business.

Maryland

Check for name availability through a business entity search. The search is a basic search bar without filtering options. A business with good standing can order a certificate of good standing through this tool as well. Register a business through the Maryland Business Express. Other management tools such as filing annual reports and registering a trade name are included here as well.

Massachusetts

Search business names using the commonwealth’s business entity search. Filter results through searches for “begins with,” “exact match,” “full text” and soundex (a special coding system). Businesses can also run a trademark search, and check for name availability through the name reservation tool. Register a business through the MassTax Connect service.

Michigan

Search for entities that do business in Michigan through the corporations division search tool. Search by entity name, individual name, ID number and or filing number. Filter searches with a keyword search, soundex or “exact match.” Register a business through the online filing service.

Minnesota

Filter business searches in Minnesota with “begins with” or “contains” options through the search business filings page. The fee runs between $70.00 and $220.00 to file. Check name availability by creating an account via step-by-step instructions. Also, reserve a name for up to one year with the name reservation form.

Mississippi

Use Mississippi’s search portal to check for name availability and status of a business. Filter searches in the following way: “starting with,”; “all words”; “any words”; “sounds like” and “exact match.” Register to file a business through a registered filer login. Business owners will need to register, or already have login information. Another resource is the “How to Start a Business in Mississippi” page, which contains additional information on starting a business, including a fee chart. Reserve a name for up to 180 days by paying a $25.00 fee.

Missouri

Use the business entity search to find registered businesses. Also, filter searches by business name, registered agent, name availability and charter number. Register a business through the Missouri online business filing platform. The starting a business explainer page provides downloadable forms for mailing registrations, and information about Missouri’s various entities. Fees vary.

Montana

Run a business search with the filters “starts with” and “contains” to learn a business’s status and check for the availability of a name. The results also note the status of a business, whether it is active or not and if it’s in good standing. Register a business through the ePass Montana platform.

Nebraska

Conduct a corporate and business Search to learn the status of an entity, as well as registered trade names, trademarks and service marks. Search by “name starts with,” “name keyword search,” “name sounds like,” “name exact match” and “account number.” Register a business by filing forms online through corporate document eDelivery. Review corporate name availability and name reservation procedures page for more information on reserving a name, and forms.

Nevada

Using  Nevada’s SilverFlume business portal, you can run a business search through the search tool on the left-hand side of the page. Search by entity name, entity number, state business ID, officer name or registered agent name. Visit the start your business online portal for a step-by-step program that helps business owners to register their businesses.

New Hampshire

Search registered businesses in New Hampshire through the business search tool. Create a login with the QuickStart platform to search New Hampshire’s business database (scroll to bottom). Also file a business through the create a new business page. The process requires creating a free account.

New Jersey

Search registered businesses through the business entity name search, which offers both a business search (by business name, keyword or entity ID) and name availability search. If you’re interested in registering a specific name, use the business name availability search.

New Mexico

Run a search through the business search page by entering the entity name or DBA (doing business as). The results will show the status of the business. Options for searches include “starts with,” “exact match” and “contains.”

New York

Search the corporation and business entity database for more information on a particular business. The New York Department of State notes that a returned result doesn’t indicate that a name is necessarily available or not available. To determine name availability, a person should submit a written request to the division of corporations with a fee of $5.00 per name. Availability searches can’t be done by telephone. For more information about filing a business name, visit the division of corporations page.

North Carolina

Search businesses registered to do business in North Carolina through the business entity search. Narrow the search by “start with,” “any words,” “all words,” and “exact.” Specifics for preparing to register a business can be found on the business registration page.

North Dakota

Search for registered businesses in North Dakota via the business records search. Search options include “all words,” “with at least one word,” “entity name starts with,” “partial match with all of the words,” and “partial match with at least one of the words.” Register via mail or fax to 701-328-2992 with the forms and their respective business type. Fees vary.

Ohio

Search for business entities through the state’s business name search. Choose between active, cancelled and dead business entities. Register a business through the filing forms and fee schedule page. Business registrations require a fee of $99.00 and name reservation requires $39.00.

Oklahoma

Search for businesses in Oklahoma through the business entities search tool. Run a more advanced search through the same page with the option to check for name availability. The final determination of name availability will be made by the business filing department. Register a business and reserve a name through the entity filing page.

Oregon

Oregon offers many options for filtering search results from its business registry database, perhaps the most extensive out of all states. Its search methods run from searching for name availability (most restrictive, searching exactly as entered) to a word search in any word order (least restrictive). Register a business through the Oregon business registry with user login information or by signing up for an account.

Pennsylvania

The Pennsylvania business search tool searches registered businesses and also checks for name availability. Business owners can register their business entity through PENN File, which has over 70 forms for entity filing. Users will need to register and create a username and password. For more information on registering businesses, including a schedule of fees, review the guide to business registration.

Rhode Island

Business owners looking to confirm that their business name is unique can search the Rhode Island’s corporate database. Use the name availability guidelines in conjunction with the search tool. For example, if a name is different from an existing name because of an article, different spelling of the same word or capitalization, it is not eligible for that name in Rhode Island. More information on registering a business with an available name can be found on the start or qualify to do business in Rhode Island page, which also includes a section for women and minority entrepreneurs.

South Carolina

The business entities online tool simplifies the search process by providing an all-in-one solution for searching for a business, checking name availability and registering a business. Filter searches by “contains,” “begins with” and “exact match.” Type in a name, and if it is available, select “add new entity” to begin the registration process. The process requires you to create an account if you don’t already have a login.

South Dakota

Find a business entity through the business information search by searching names using “starts with” or “contains.” Search by name or by business ID. Visit the business services page for registering a business, checking for name availability, requesting a certificate of good standing, filing an annual report and more. The availability search is an exact name search—it’s also suggested that a business owner checks the business information search for name variations.

Tennessee

A business search in Tennessee can be filtered by words the name starts with, or words the name contains. From the business search, a business in good standing can get a certificate of existence. A business can also be looked up by control number or name. Register a business through the online registration portal. Fees vary depending on entity type.

Texas

Texas has a taxable entity search where a business can be looked up by tax ID, Entity Name, or File Number. To see if a name is available, an inquiry can be made phone or email. Call 512-463-5555. Then dial 7-1-1 for relay services. Or email a name inquiry to the Corporations Section at [email protected] Reserve a name and register a business through SOSDirect, the additional option of submitting forms via mail or fax.

Utah

Conduct a name search for businesses registered in Utah by business name, executive name (for an extra $3.00) and by entity number. Search tips include using full words, word beginnings, and phrases with quotes placed around them. Register a business through the OneStop business registration portal, which will require that business owners create an account.

Vermont

Search for Vermont business names by “starts with,” “exact match,” and “contains” using the express search. There are more advanced search options such as business type, status and principal name. Register a business through straightforward prompts on the start a Vermont business page. You can request forms for completing an application by mail. Incorporating a business costs $125.00, with additional fees on the fees and filing page.

Virginia

The Commonwealth of Virginia offers a business entity search and a search for name distinguishability to determine the availability of a name. If a name is available, an option is given to register the business with this name. For the entity search, search by keyword, “starts with,” or “contains.” Register a business online through the SCC eFile portal. No processing fees are charged.

Washington

Run a corporation search by “exact match,” “starts with,” and “contains.” Charity/fundraiser and trademark searches are also accessible via the page. For more on how to register a business, visit the Washington Business Hub.

West Virginia

Finding an available name requires some work through West Virginia’s business search tool, which also shows whether a business is active or not active. The site recommends typing part of the name. One search tip is to use the percent sign (%), referred to as the wildcard character by the secretary of state, before a word (i.e. %Window) to find results with that word at any place in the name. Additional name search tips and notes for checking name availability are on the name availability page. Register a business entity through Business4WV.com, an online business portal that also requires registration.

Wisconsin

Search Wisconsin’s corporate records for a general businesses entity search with an advanced option, or to check name availability. An Advanced Search and Name Availability Search can also be done through this page. Register a business through the one-stop business portal, where you can also file an annual report. Registration is required.

Wyoming

Business owners can search Wyoming’s registered business database using “contains” and “starts with.” The Online Services page offers a plethora of services including prompts for registration, certificates of standing and filing an annual report. Profit corporations and LLCs have a fee of $100.00, while nonprofits are $25.00 for business registration.

 

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