1. Business Entity Search in California
2. Reasons to Conduct a Business Search
3. How to Successfully Conduct an LLC Search
4. Certificates, Copies of Documents, or Status Reports
5. Steps for Conducting a Name Search to Form an LLC

Business Entity Search in California

The California Secretary of State website makes it easy to search for various business entities. People looking for specific information can find it by searching the following criteria:

  • Limited Liability Company (LLC) 
  • Limited Liability Partnership (LLP) 
  • Limited Partnership (LP) 

A person can search by entity name or number. The Secretary of State's office makes it clear that this search tool shouldn't be used as a name availability search tool. In the Business Entities section, individuals can conduct free business searches to find public information about LLCs in the state. 

There are various reasons an individual might look up an LLC, including the following: 

  • To check the status of an LLC 
  • To find more information for Service of Process
  • To get information about the entity's formation, conversion date, or registration
  • To find business contact information
  • To get contact information for a registered agent

If you search by LLC name instead of by entity number, use the following tips to get the best results. 

  • Omit punctuation in the entity name, including periods, following initials. 
  • Group initials in the name together and omit punctuation after the initials, i.e., enter “ABC” for “A.B.C. Company.” 
  • Keep the spaces in a company name if it has spaces, even if you omit the punctuation. For example, if you search for “A. B. C. Company,” enter “A B C Company” for your search. 
  • Leave in the spaces and include plurals where appropriate to get the right information when conducting a name search. If you enter “ABC Service” when looking for “ABC Services,” your desired business name won't show up in your results.

There are more search tips on the Business Search page to help you get the correct information you're searching for. You can find tips on modifying or refining your search terms to get the best results. 

Certificates, Copies of Documents, or Status Reports

When you find the information you're looking for, you may want to obtain status reports, certificates, or copies of various documents. For instance, you might want a Certificate of Status, which shows an LLC's current status, or a Certificate of No Record, a document that certifies there's no record of a specific business entity.

You may want to obtain other documents — including certified or uncertified copies — like the following: 

  • Statements of Information
  • Formation or registration documents 
  • Termination documents 
  • Amendment documents

You can also obtain status reports that show detailed information, such as: 

  • Full business entity name 
  • Status 
  • File number
  • Address
  • Jurisdiction

Steps for Conducting a Name Search to Form an LLC

When you decide to form an LLC in California, you should first check to see if your desired business name is available. You'll check the state database for existing business names. Follow these steps to conduct a name search:

  1. Visit the Business Search page at the Secretary of State website. 
  2. Choose the LP/LLC Name option. 
  3. Enter the 12-digit entity number if you have it or simply enter the entity name. 
  4. Click “Search.” 

If you get results for an existing company with the identical name you want to use, you won't be able to form an LLC with that same name. Your business name has to be distinguishable from existing names. You can't use a name that's too similar to existing names, either, because it may mislead the public.

You should conduct a search for both LP/LLC Name and Corporation Name to ensure that your desired name is actually available and distinguishable from all other existing businesses. It's a good idea to review the Name Availability page for additional information and guidelines regarding the creation of business names in the state.

Whether you're trying to form a new business entity or you want detailed specifics about existing business entities, make sure you use the correct search tools to get the necessary information.

If you need more information about an LLC name search in California or another state, you can post your legal need on UpCounsel's marketplace. UpCounsel accepts only the top 5 percent of lawyers to its site. Lawyers on UpCounsel come from law schools such as Harvard Law and Yale Law and average 14 years of legal experience, including work with or on behalf of companies like Google, Menlo Ventures, and Airbnb.