California LLC Search (step-by-step instructions)

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The first step to form your California LLC is to check the availability of your desired business name. To do this, you’ll have to compare your desired name to the names of businesses already existing in the California Database.

Below is an online guide on how to use the California Database correctly.

You can access it here:
https://businesssearch.sos.ca.gov/

We’ll show you examples of LLC names that are available and unavailable for use.

4 Most Common Statuses in the California Database

You’ll regularly see these 4 statuses beside an existing company’s name as you use the California Database:

  • Active
  • Cancelled
  • Forfeited
  • Suspended

If “Active” shows up beside the company’s name, that means the company still exists and is currently doing business in California.

“Cancelled” means the state of California or the business owner has cancelled using the name for purposes of the LLC.

“Suspended” means the company has been suspended – or stopped from doing business – for failing to comply with the annual tax requirements.

“Forfeited” means the name and/or the LLC business has been abandoned.

“Cancelled”, “Suspended”, and “Forfeited” names are not available for use.

The absence of these 4 statuses means your desired LLC name is available. To stay on the safe side, make your business name as unique as possible.

Before entering your desired LLC name in the search box and clicking enter, make sure you’ve chosen either “Corporation” or “Limited Liability Company/Limited Partnership”. These options can be found on top of the search box.

california llc name search

We recommend you search your desired LLC name using both options. This way, you can make sure the name really is available and that it will be unique from any existing business.

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Available LLC Names

Now that you’re ready to use the California Database, let’s start with an example of an LLC name that’s available for use.

First, type in your desired LLC name in the search box. You don’t need to capitalize or add “LLC” or “L.L.C.” at the end of the name.

In this example, let’s enter “Woodcutters and Carvers” into the search box, choose the “Limited Liability Company/Limited Partnership Name” at the top, and then click “Search”.

california llc name search

As you can see below, the search did not find any matching result for “Woodcutters and Carvers.” “Record not found” means your desired LLC name is available for use.

california llc name search

To make sure your desired LLC really is available, do the search again–but this time choose the “Corporation Name” option.

california llc name search

As you can see below, the second search using the “Corporation Name” option also found no record of “Woodcutters and Carvers”. In this case, the name is definitely available for use.

california-llc-search-05

Unavailable LLC Names

Now, let’s look at an example of a name that not’s available for use. Let’s enter “Black T-shirt” into the search box, pick the “Limited Liability Company/Limited Partnership” option and click “Search”.

california llc name search

As you can see below, there already is an existing company with the same name. In this case, “Black T-shirt” is not available for use.

california llc name search

Let’s have another example, this time of a name that’s not available because it’s not distinguishable. Let’s type in “AS Jewelry” into the search box, choose the “Limited Liability Company/Limited Partnership” option and click “Search”.

california llc name search

As you can see below, there is an existing business with the name “A.S. Jewelry, LLC”. Since your desired name is not distinguishable, it’s not available for use.

california llc name search

Reminders

Again, when using the California Database, be sure to:

  • Choose an LLC name that is truly unique and distinguishable
  • Not be fooled by the “Cancelled”, “Suspended”, or “Forfeited” statuses
  • Do the searches choosing both the “Corporation” and “Limited Liability Company/Limited Partnership” options
  • Search your desired LLC name in the database a few times and different ways to be sure it is available and not too similar to existing businesses

If you need more tips on choosing your desired LLC name, you can watch this video.

If you want help on how to form your own California LLC, then watch our step-by-step video course.

Matt Horwitz
Founder & Educator, LLC University®
Forming an LLC shouldn't be so complicated. Our step-by-step guide will make the process a breeze – and no complex legal jargon! LLC University® teaches people how to form an LLC for free in all 50 states. We hope you find our free guides and resources helpful in your business journey.
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