Completing a California LLC search can be difficult, but there are several ways to make the process easier. This is important when you need information about an LLC or need to know if the name of your prospective LLC is already taken.

Looking Up an LLC in California

The Secretary of State of California offers a free online business search function in the business entities section. All businesses in California, including LLCs, must register with the database of the secretary of state. You can get certified or uncertified copies of business records for any company for a small fee.

If you are trying to start a California limited liability company, whether as one member or more, it is a good idea to look up any prospective names in the database to see if it is already taken. Your company name has to be distinguishable and cannot be used to mislead people, so make sure it is reasonably distinct from existing company names.

You can search by entity type — corporation, LLC, limited partnership, and limited liability partnership. You can also search by name or entity number. The secretary of state's office is clear, though, that this search tool is not the same thing as an availability search. There is a separate tool for that. While the entity search can give you an idea of if your name is taken or not, the availability search is the most reliable way to know for sure.

When at the secretary of state's website for California, select the business search page and click the Limited Liability Company/Limited Partnership Name option. All LLCs registered in California have a 12-digit entity number; if you have a number, you can use it for your search. When searching by name, however, make sure you do not include punctuation. If the company name uses initials, for example, do not include the periods after each letter. If a company name includes letters with spaces between them, like "A B C Company," make sure you include the spaces. If you search "ABC Company," you will not get the same results. The same rule applies for plurals.

Your search results will show:

  • Entity number
  • Entity name
  • Filing date
  • Status
  • Agent for service of process

The record will also be displayed, which includes:

  • Name
  • Number
  • Address
  • Jurisdiction
  • Status
  • Agent for service of process
  • Address for the agent

Documents are then made available to you, such as:

  • Certificate of Status
  • Formation documents
  • Termination documents
  • Statements of information

If you want to obtain certificates or copies, you will need to fill out the Business Entities Records Order Form. Submit it in person or by mail to the secretary of state's office in Sacramento. Instructions and fees are included on the form:

  • $1 for the first page and $0.50 for additional pages.
  • For certified copies of the LLC record, note on the form that you want initial formation documents, statements of information, amendment documents, or all documents on record.
  • You can also choose if you want certified or uncertified documents.

If you want to file your request by mail, send a self-addressed stamped envelope to

Secretary of State
Certification and Records
P.O. Box 944260
Sacramento, CA 94244-2600

To deliver your request in person, go to 1500 11th Street, 3rd Floor, Sacramento, CA 95814. In-person requests cost an extra $10.

Search for Name Availability

The secretary of state office has an entire process devoted to searching for name availability that is distinct from an entity search. If you need to check the availability of a name, complete the Name Availability Inquiry Letter. For this, you will need to write the following:

  • Requester's name
  • Firm name, if applicable
  • Requester's address, phone number, and fax number
  • Entity time
  • First, second, and third name choices

You can send your completed form to this address:

Secretary of State
Name Availability Unit
1500 11th Street, 3rd Floor
Sacramento, CA 95814

The secretary of state will send you confirmation.

According to California Corporations Code Section 17701.08, California has specific rules for LLC naming. The name must end with one of the following:

  • L.L.C.
  • LLC
  • Limited Liability Co.
  • Limited Liability Company
  • Ltd. Liability Co
  • Ltd. Liability Company

The name must also not include trust, trustee, bank, corporation, corp, incorporated, or Inc. Finally, the name cannot have insurance company, insurer, or any other insurance-related language implying that the LLC issues insurance policies or assumes insurance risks.

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