Last Updated on September 3, 2020

Whether you’re researching the availability of a business name or checking the status of a business entity the Rhode Island Secretary of State website has the information you are looking for.

The Secretary of State Business Entity Database provides information on corporations and LLCs registered in Rhode Island.  The names of sole proprietorships or general partnerships are not centralized. Instead, they are registered with the Town or County Clerk’s office 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 Organization – Date the entity was first filed with the Secretary of State
  • Effective Date – A business entity can elect to start at a date up to 90 days after filing if desired.
  • Principal Address – This could be the physical address of the business or it could be an address where business records are stored.
  • Resident Agent’s information – A Resident Agent in Rhode Island 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. 
  • Purpose – A brief description of what the business does.
  • NAICS – Classification system used to identify and research industries.
  • Filings such as the Annual Report and Articles of Organization are available to view as well.

How to do a Rhode Island Business Name Search

Visit the Rhode Island Secretary of State website.

Enter the name you would like to use in the “Search by entity name” field.  In this example, we will look up “Sew What” and click “Name Availability Check”.  It is recommended to search by “Begins With”, “Exact Match” and “Full Text” in the drop-down menu to search your name thoroughly.

How to search for a Rhode Island Business Name

Searching the registered names, we get a list of all the businesses with the words “The Pool Guy”.  To be able to register a corporation or LLC name in Rhode Island, the name must be distinguishable from the other names registered. The word “The” isn’t considered a distinguishable word, so “Pool Guy LLC” wouldn’t be available either. If you were looking to form an LLC with this name you wouldn’t be able to since there is already one registered.

Rhode Island Entity Search

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 “The Pool Guy LLC”.

Rhode Island Name Search Results

While the name “The Pool Guy” by itself may not be available, other variants are such as “The Pool Guy of Rhode Island”.  Searching for this business names brings a result that says “No records found; try a new search using different criteria”.  Even if the name looks like it is available the Secretary of State 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.

Rhode Island Business Name Availability

These are the basics of searching for a business name in Rhode Island.  Even when the name of the business you want looks like it is available, the Secretary 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. 

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 Rhode Island LLC by reading our step-by-step guide on filing the Articles of Organization.

While not required in Rhode Island, 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, Rhode Island business licenses and permits may still be necessary.