A Montana business license must be applied for and approved by the city where the business will be conducting business. The license is a validation the business owner has completed the necessary steps, including filing an application, registering, and paying any fees, to be eligible to do business in Montana. A business license must be obtained on the date the business commences doing business or prior to that date. 

While most businesses require a license to operate in Montana, some business types may be exempt as far as state and federal law is concerned. Check with the issuing city where your business will be located for information on being eligible for exempt status. 

Applying for a basic business license isn't difficult and can usually be taken care of online. If your business is going to be designated a partnership, corporation, or limited liability company (LLC), additional paperwork will be required. This includes, but not limited to, filing articles of organization, as well as selecting a registered agent to be responsible for sending and receiving legal documents, and the requirement to file an annual report. For these types of businesses, using a professional service to take care of the application steps from start to finish is recommended. 

When an owner sells the business to another person, the current license cannot be used for the new owner. He or she must have the current license either transferred or assigned, or the owner can apply for a new business license in their name. 


The following information covers how to get a business license in Montana. Keep in mind each city may have its own set of procedures and contact locations for getting a business license. 

Step 1.

Name Search — Before beginning the process of applying for a business license, if you are planning to use a name other than your own, you will need to do a name search to find out if the name is available. Do a search at the Montana Secretary of State website. 

Step 2.

Application — Apply for the license, sign the application, and include the fee. The type of business you will be operating determines the type of business license you will need. Requirements for obtaining a business license vary from city to city. Contact or visit your local courthouse or city offices for information about your specific location.

Examples of some of the available business licenses include:

  • Accounting
  • Child Care
  • Cosmetology
  • Financial Services
  • Food/Beverage
  • Health
  • Lodging
  • Notary
  • Plumbing
  • Real Estate
  • Specialty Businesses
  • Travel Agency
  • Vehicle Dealer

Step 3. 

Filing — The step is necessary for businesses that plan to operate in Montana as a corporation, partnership, or limited liability company (LLC). These types of business are required to register with the Secretary of State for Montana.

Step 4.

Professional Licensing — Business owners operating as a professional or occupational service are required by the State of Montana, to have a license. The types of businesses include areas such as nursing, pharmacists, dentists, engineers, lawyers, and accountants.

Step 5. 

Fictitious Name — When starting a business, the owner has the option of setting up the business using the owner's name or creating a fictitious name. In the case of LLCs and corporations, the owner must file a fictitious or assumed name form with the Secretary of State. A fictitious name is also known as an "assumed" name of a "DBA" (doing business as).

Step 6.

Registered Trademarks — Trademarks, service marks, or trade names set a company apart from competitors using a visual or catchy enhancement to highlight services and products. Owners must pay a filing fee and register the mark with the state using the Registration of Mark form available at the Montana Secretary of State website. 


Q. Can I start my business before applying for a business license?

A. No. A signed application filled out and an application fee included is required.

Q. I want to start an at-home business. Is this allowed?

A. You must first apply for and receive a business license, and the business you're operating must be in compliance with the zoning ordinance for your local. 

Q. How long does it take to get a business license?

A. It takes approximately two to four weeks to receive a permanent business license. 

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