The first step in forming an LLC or corporation in New York is to verify the business name is available to use. Each business entity that is registered with the New York Department of State must use a unique name. See our step-by-step guide to learn how to quickly search available names by using the state’s Business Entity Database.
Also See: Guide to Starting a Business in New York
How To Do A New York Corporation or LLC Business Name Search
Step 1: Visit the Business Name Database
Visit the New York Department of State website.
Step 2: Search for a Business Name
Enter the name you would like to use in the “Entity Name” field. In this example, we will look up “Sew What,” enter the captcha, and click “Search the Database.” It is recommended to search both by “Begins With,” “Contains,” and “Partial” in the drop-down menu to be sure to search your name thoroughly.
Step 3: Review the Results
Searching the registered names, we get a list of all the businesses with the words “Sew What.” To be able to register a corporation or LLC name in New York, the name must be distinguishable from the other names registered. If you were looking to form a corporation with this name, you wouldn’t be able to since there is already one registered.
To find more information about any of the registered business names, click on the link in the “Entity Name” column to see a detailed report. In this example, we will look up “Sew What Inc.”
While the name “Sew What” by itself may not be available other variants are such as “Sew What Quilting” or “Sew What Seamstress” is. Searching for those business names brings a result that says, “There were no records found.” While final approval is still with the Department of State, it is likely available to register.
These are the basics of searching for a business name in New York. Even when the name of the business you want looks like it is available, the Department of State will make a final determination at the time of filing to ensure the name you picked isn’t too similar to other registered names.
Something to keep in mind is that even though each Corporation and LLC name must be unique, it may not stop someone else from using that name since business names for a sole proprietorship or partnership are not registered by the Secretary of State and are not required to be unique. To protect your business name, consider getting a trademark.
Related: Should I trademark my business name?
What information can be looked up in the database?
The database search can find several pieces of information about the business. Some of the highlights include:
- Business Name
- Initial DOS Filing Date – Date the entity was filed with the Department of State
- Entity type – Corporation, Limited Liability Company. Etc.
- Current Entity Status – Active means the entity is in good standing, and all reports and filing fees are up to date. Other results include “Inactive Voluntary Dissolution, Inactive Revocation,” “Cancelled,” among others. The names of these results may be available to register.
- 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, so their home address isn’t listed.
How to Register an Assumed Name for Sole Proprietorships and Partnerships
The Department of State’s Corporation and Business Entity Database provides information on corporations and LLCs registered in New York. The names of sole proprietorships or general partnerships are not centralized. Instead, they are registered with the County Clerk’s office in the county where the business is located.
An Assumed Name, also known as “Doing Business As,” DBA, or Fictitious Name, is a name used by a sole proprietorship or partnership and is different from the owner’s legal name.
What are the requirements to name an LLC in New York?
In addition to the name being unique, the name of the LLC must include a special designator such as Limited Liability Company, LLC, L.L.C., etc., in addition to not using restricted words such as bank or insurance, unless the entity is licensed to operate as such.
Can an LLC name be reserved?
If there is a name you want to use but aren’t ready to form the LLC, the Application for Reservation of Name can be filed to hold the name for up to 60 days. The state filing fee for a name reservation is $20, paid to the New York Department of State.
How do I form a New York 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 New York LLC by reading our step-by-step guide.
While not required in New York, an Operating Agreement, which are the rules for how the LLC operates, is 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, New York business licenses and permits may still be necessary.