Updated November 3, 2020:

How long does it take to get a business license? The answer to this question is much more complicated than it may seem. Several factors can influence how long it will take for you to get your business license, including the type of business you are starting, where your business is located, and state regulations that may apply to your business. Depending on your business, obtaining a business license can take as little as a single day or as long as six months.

Business License Basics

A business is basically an organization that is involved with commerce. Businesses cover every occupation, profession, and trade imaginable. Commonly, businesses undergo inspection by the government for several issues before issuing the owner a business license:

When you receive a business license, it means that you and your business are legally separate entities. This separation is beneficial in a variety of ways. If you want to register a business, you will need much more than just a name for your company and an address where you can receive mail. Depending on the nature of your business, registration may mean having to comply with complex requirements.

States are responsible for issuing business licenses and instituting requirements for these licenses. The laws that apply to business licenses can vary between states, so you will need to learn the specific requirements in your state before you apply for your license.

You will need a business license in each state where your business has a physical presence. Fortunately, simply having customers in another state does not necessarily mean you will need to apply for a license.

Types of Business Licenses

The type of business license for which you'll need to apply will depend largely on the type of business you're running. Available business entities include:

While some businesses require a general business license, other businesses need a specific type of license. Plumbers and construction workers, for instance, may need to apply for a contractor's license. If you are starting a hair salon, you will likely need to apply with the Department of Health to receive your business license.

Business License Forms

When you submit your business license application, you will need to supply a few basic pieces of information about your business. For instance, you will usually need to list the name of your business and the name and contact information of one of your owners. Some states may have additional requirements that must be met before issuing a business license. For example, some states only allow multi-member limited liability companies, while others permit an LLC to be registered with one owner.

Before you apply for your business license, you should contact your Secretary of State to learn what forms you need to fill out and submit. Fill out the appropriate forms and then submit them to the correct state agency, along with any necessary fees. You can use the License & Permit Finder provided by the U.S. Small Business Administration to learn about the different licenses that you may need for your company.

Hiring a Registered Agent

In addition to obtaining a business license, your company may also need to hire a registered agent. For instance, if you form your business in one state but live in another, you need a registered agent. Some states require certain business entities, such as LLCs, to appoint an agent.

Basically, a registered agent is a person that receives official correspondence on your business's behalf. Your registered agent should be a resident in the same state as your business, and should have a physical address. You can either hire an individual as your agent or pay a company for this service.

Registering Your Business

Before your company can begin conducting business, you will need to complete several business registrations. First, you will need to register your business's structure. This is important because it determines how your business will be taxed at both the state and federal levels.

Second, you will need to complete a registration for every type of license required of your company. Registering for business licenses is one component of the overall business registration process. Your local or state licensing agency may inspect your business before issuing a license.

If you need help with how long does it take to get a business license, you can post your legal needs 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.