How To Do A Free California Secretary of State Business Name Search

Last Updated on January 30, 2024

California State Map

The Business Programs Division of the California Secretary of State is responsible for keeping a database containing detailed information on entities incorporated in the state. You can access the database to view information on entities such as the Corporation, Limited Liability Company (LLC), Limited Partnership (LP), and Limited Liability Partnership (LLP). You can also use the database to see if the name you want to use for your business is available.

The sole proprietorship and general partnership are not registered with the Secretary of State as they are not individual business entities.  To find more information on sole proprietorships or partnerships, visit the county clerk where the business is located and look at the Fictitious Business Name filings.

Also see: How to start an LLC in California

To search the Secretary of State database, you need to have at least one of the following information with you to do a California entity search:

  • Business Entity Name
  • Business Entity Number (California Secretary of State registration number)
    • This number is different from the Employer Identification Number (EIN) as it is assigned by the Internal Revenue Service)

How to do a California Business Name Search

If you are someone looking for information regarding corporations or business entities based in California, then you have come to the right place. We’ve made the search process easier to understand with our simple guidelines below. Just follow the steps on how to use the California business search tool with the California Secretary of State.

Step 1 – Go to the Secretary of State’s website and the Business Programs Division’s Search Page (see the screenshot below for reference).

How to do a California Business Entity Search

Step 2 – Choose your Search Type (“Corporation Name,” “LP/LLC Name,” or “Entity Name”). For this example, let’s type in the name of a business entity (“American Coffee Company”) in the “Search Criteria” field.

Next, filter your search by selecting either “Keyword,” “Exact,” or “Begins With” (for this example, let’s select “Keyword”). Then click the “Search” button (see the screenshot below for reference).

California SOS Business Entity Search Instructions

Step 3. The Results Page will appear with your business entity’s basic information. If you want further information, click on the entity’s name.

California SOS Corporation Search Results

The screenshot below shows the business entity’s detailed information. You may also download the entity’s Statement of Information and Articles of Incorporation (Corporation) or Articles of Organization (Limited Liability Company) in PDF.

California SOS Business Entity Search Detail

This page provides information such as when the entity was registered, the type of business entity (Corporation, Limited Liability Company, etc.), status (Good Standing or Suspended), Agent for Service of Process, entity address, and entity mailing address.

In California, each entity must pay an annual franchise fee to the California Franchise Tax board for transacting business in the state.  The filing fee for the Franchise Tax is $800 annually.

Agent for Service of Process

In California, an Agent for Service of Process (commonly known as a Registered Agent) is required to be named.  This is a single point of contact in case the business needs to be served with legal papers or contacted by the state.  The business owner often files as the entity’s registered agent.  When they file, their home address is often used (PO Boxes aren’t allowed), and their name and address is now a public record that can be looked up by anyone.  If that is a concern, consider looking into a Registered Agent service.

Business Licenses

The business name registration is different from a business license in California.  The California Department of Tax and Fee Administration (CDTFA) has more information regarding business licenses.

Information on California (CA) SOS

California State Seal

The Office:

The Secretary of State of California is a constitutionally elected officer of the state. He or she serves in office for four years with a two-term limit.

The current Secretary of State is Alex Padilla, a Democrat who assumed office in 2015.

What additional services are available through the California Secretary of State?

The California Secretary of State is responsible for the following duties, among others:

  • Overseeing state elections
  • Maintaining state archives
  • Filing and disclosing campaign lobbyist financial information
  • Registering and recording businesses in the state
  • Certificate of Good Standing
  • Commissioning notaries

Select the State Where the Corporation is Registered:

California UCC Search

To find information on liens registered with the state, see how to do a California UCC search.