How to Search Available Business Names in Virginia

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Quick Reference

Whether you’re researching the availability of a business name or checking the status of a business entity the Virginia State Corporation Commission website has the information you are looking for.

The State Corporation Commission Business Entity Database provides information on corporations and LLCs registered in Virginia.  The names of sole proprietorships and general partnerships are not centralized. Instead, they are registered with the Clerk of the Circuit Clerk’s office in the county where the business is located. 

There is no fee to search the database.

What information can be looked up?

The database search can find several pieces of information about the business. Some of the highlights include:

  • Business Name
  • Entity Type – Corporation, Limited Liability Company. Etc.
  • Date of Formation / Registration – Date the entity was first filed with the State Corporation Commission.
  • Status – Active means the entity is in good standing means all reports and filing fees are up to date. Other results include “Cancelled”, “Purged”, “Fee Delinquent”, and “Terminated”. The names of these inactive results may be available to register.
  • Principal Office – This could be the physical address of the business or it could be an address where business records are stored.
  • Registered Agent’s information – A Registered Agent is the singular point of contact for the entity should a legal or tax notice need to be sent to the business.  This is often one of the owners and if their home address is used, that address becomes public information.  Many people find this concerning and use a Registered Agent service like Northwest Registered Agent or IncFile so their home address isn’t listed.  
  • Names of the officers and their title

How to do a Virginia Business Name Search

Visit the Virginia State Corporation Commission website.

Enter the name you would like to use in the “Enter entity name” field.  In this example, we will look up “Sew What” and click “Check Name”.

Searching this name we get a message “Name is not distinguishable”.  To be able to register a corporation or LLC name in Virginia, the name must be distinguishable from the other names registered. If you were looking to form an LLC with this name you wouldn’t be able to since there is already one registered.

How to do a Virginia Business Name Search

To find more information about any of the registered business names, click on the name to see a detailed report.  In this example, we will look up “Sew What Inc”.

Virgina Business Entity Search

While the name “Sew What” by itself may not be available, other variants are such as “Sew What Seamstress”.  Searching for this business name brings a result that says “Yes, this name is distinguishable on the records of the Commission at this time”.  Even if the name looks like it is available the State Corporation Commission will do their own search to avoid confusing potential customers with a business name that sounds like someone else’s.  Typically words that sound alike but are spelled differently and even abbreviations will make names show up as available but won’t be approved.

Virginia Business Name Availability

These are the basics of searching for a business name in Virginia.  Even when the name of the business you want looks like it is available, the State Corporation Commission will make a final determination at the time of filing to ensure the name you picked isn’t too similar to other registered names. 

How do I form an LLC?

Before starting your business and forming an LLC, be sure to do the business entity search first to make sure the name is available to use.  Once you know the LLC name is available, learn how to form a Virginia LLC by reading our step-by-step guide on filing the Articles of Organization.

While not required in Virginia, an Operating Agreement, which contains the rules for how the LLC operates, may be a document worth considering especially for multi-member LLCs.

After forming a Limited Liability Company, be sure to get an Employer Identification Number (EIN).  This is a “social security number” for the business.  There is no cost to get one through the IRS.

After forming the LLC, Virginia business licenses and permits may still be necessary.