Your business is growing, and you’re planning an expansion to other states. It’s a good problem to have!
But it’s not quite as simple as choosing another location. Because each state has different rules and requirements for business operations, you may need a “foreign qualification” in each state where you plan to do business.
It’s a common misconception that foreign qualification is only for businesses operating outside the U.S. But in this case, “foreign” refers to any business operating in a state that isn’t the state where the LLC was originally formed.
For example, if your LLC is registered in Washington and you are looking to open a second location in New York, you may need to complete a foreign qualification in New York before you can expand there.
What happens if I fail to foreign qualify before doing business in New York?
Foreign qualifying is essentially asking permission to do business in the state of New York. And the notion that “it’s easier to ask forgiveness than permission” doesn’t apply here. Failing to foreign qualify before starting a business in New York yields consequences that are far costlier than registering in the first place.
If you fail to foreign qualify, your business will be prohibited from maintaining any action or proceeding in New York courts, and the Secretary of State will be assigned as your registered agent. On top of that, the Attorney General could cut off your LLC’s business activities in the state.
That means you’re looking at a halted revenue stream and loss of legal footing. No fun. And not something that’s worth risking, which is why foreign qualification is so important.
You can read more about possible penalties by reading Chapter 34, Article 8 of the Consolidated Laws of New York.
What is considered “doing business” in New York?
We’ve established why you shouldn’t do business without a foreign qualification. But what exactly does it mean to “do business” in New York? While the state’s LLC Act doesn’t explicitly define “doing business,” the Secretary of State provides a lengthy article on the precedents set by prior court decisions. In most cases, though, you are considered to be “doing business” and need to foreign qualify if:
- You maintain a continuous physical presence in the state, like offices, warehouses, stores or other business structures.
- You have personnel, like salespeople or agents, doing consistent business on behalf of your LLC in the state.
Depending on how you’ve set up your LLC, you might need to pay certain business-specific taxes too. When you foreign qualify, it informs the state of your tax status so they can respond appropriately. If you avoid these taxes by flying under the radar, it will likely lead to more severe penalties later on.
If you’re unsure whether or not you need to file for a foreign qualification in New York, we suggest seeking legal counsel.
Could I be exempt from foreign qualifying in New York?
The foreign qualification, however, isn’t a hard and fast rule for all LLCs performing any kind of action in New York. Certain actions do not qualify as “doing business” and therefore don’t require a foreign qualification. Some examples are:
- Maintaining, defending, or settling a lawsuit in New York courts
- Holding meetings of its members or managers
- Having in-state bank accounts
- Maintaining offices/agencies that manage the transfer and/or exchange of its own membership interests
Read it over. Then take a look at the detailed list in Section 803 of the New York LLC Act. If your business activities in the state appear here, you’re likely exempt from foreign qualifying. Still, if you have questions or hesitations, it’s best to seek legal counsel.
How to Foreign Qualify Your LLC in New York
Foreign qualification in New York is simple if you know where to find and send your forms. If you or your legal counsel has decided to foreign qualify your LLC in New York, you need to get your hands on an “Application for Authority.” Find it here, among other LLC forms and information.
After you download the form, it’s time to dig in. For the sake of expediency, have your information ready when you start. Here’s what you’ll need:
- Your LLC name (and fictitious name if the original isn’t available in New York)
- The state where you formed your domestic LLC
- The date you formed your LLC
- The New York county in which your LLC is located
- Your New York registered agent’s address
- Your LLC’s address in its home state, or its principal office address
- The name and address of the authorized officer from your LLC’s home state
With your completed form, you’ll also need to include a Certificate of Existence or Certificate of Good Standing from the state where you formed your LLC, and it can’t be more than one year old.
When you’re ready, you can mail or hand-deliver your documents to:
Division of Corporations, State Records and Uniform Commercial Code
One Commerce Plaza
99 Washington Ave.
Albany, New York 12231-0001
But, of course, this application process isn’t free. To submit your Application for Authority, you’ll need to pay a $250 fee either by check or money order (made out to “Department of State”) or card (accompanied by a “Credit Card/Debit Card Authorization Form”).
The typical processing time for an Application for Authority is 3-4 weeks. But if you need it sooner, the Department of State offers three expedited service options: 24-Hour ($25), Same Day ($75), and 2-Hour ($150). Designate your expedited service preference on your Credit Card Authorization Form.
After your form is in and your fee is paid, sit back, take a deep breath, and pat yourself on the back. Your LLC is on its way to foreign qualification and you’re embarking on another chapter in the life of your business.
Name Requirements to Remember
Like other states, New York has specific rules for naming your business. Before you submit your documents, confirm that your LLC name is in compliance with state law. It must:
- Contain the words “Limited Liability Company,” or the abbreviations “L.L.C.” or “LLC”
- Be distinguishable from all other registered and reserved business entity names on file with the Department of State
- Not use any of the words restricted or prohibited by the state (find a full list here)
- Perform a New York LLC name search to make sure the name you want is available
- You can also reserve your New York business name if you’re not quite ready to foreign qualify your LLC
There’s a whole lot more detail about business names in LLC Act Section 204. Take a look as you consider your LLC name.
What Is the New York Publication Requirement?
When you foreign qualify an LLC in New York, the state requires that you publish proof of your LLC’s registration in two different newspapers located in the same county as your company’s NY home office.
Within 120 days of your LLC’s formation, you must purchase an advertisement in these newspapers once per week for a period of six weeks. One of the papers must be a daily newspaper, while the other one follows a weekly release schedule. If you’re unsure of which newspapers to use, ask your county clerk’s office for more information.
Once you’ve completed the six weeks of advertisements, you’ll need to acquire a document known as the Affidavit of Publication from each newspaper. Then, you can submit these forms to the New York Department of State Division of Corporations along with the state’s Certificate of Publication. There is a fee of $50 for this submission, but the real expense is buying the advertisements themselves.
Without appropriately completing this requirement, your business could face some stiff penalties. The most common penalties are losing your right to sue in the state’s courts, and losing your good standing with the state.
Should I hire a service to file my New York foreign LLC?
Considering all the work that goes into expanding your business to a new state, you’ve likely got a lot on your plate. Rather than trying to juggle everything yourself, you can bring on an individual or company to help you secure your LLC’s New York foreign qualification.
For example, business attorneys understand all the legal nuances involved, providing peace of mind that the job will get done correctly. But if you go this route, be sure you have the budget for it. Lawyer fees for New York foreign LLC qualifications can be a prohibitively expensive option for businesses operating on tight budgets.
If you’re operating on a limited budget, but still want to have your New York foreign LLC professionally registered, go with an online business service provider. There are plenty of reputable companies that can help you out with New York foreign qualifications, but here are a couple of our favorites:
- MyCompanyWorks ($99): MyCompanyWorks is one of the only service providers offering foreign qualifications for less than $100. This company receives excellent customer reviews and has a great track record of success, making it a smart choice for a wide range of entrepreneurs.
- IncFile ($149): IncFile offers a free LLC formation service that we have always appreciated, and its pricing for foreign qualifications is a reasonable $149. IncFile has the best customer feedback reputation in the industry, with tens of thousands of positive reviews available online.
- Northwest Registered Agent ($225): Northwest is more of a premium service, with the best customer support in the industry, in our opinion. They also include a year of their namesake registered agent service with every foreign qualification. There’s a reason Northwest is our #1 pick among the best registered agent services!
Frequently Asked Questions
When Is the Best Time to Foreign Qualify an LLC?
We think you should foreign qualify your LLC before you begin conducting business in a new state. If you don’t, your business could be subject to a broad range of fines and penalties for operating an LLC in a state where you don’t have permission to do so.
How Long Does It Take New York to Process a Foreign Qualification?
You’ll typically need to wait roughly three to four weeks for New York to process your foreign LLC filing.
Where Can I Learn More About New York’s Licensing and Permitting Requirements?
Chances are, you’ll require at least one license or permit to operate your LLC in compliance with New York state law. For more information, we recommend the state’s “Licenses” page (simply sort by “Business” to narrow down the search field).
Do I Need to File a Biennial Statement for an LLC Foreign Qualified in New York?
Yes. Just like if you operate a domestic LLC in this state, you are required to file a New York LLC biennial statement for a foreign LLC operating here.
What Is the Total Expected Cost of Operating an LLC in New York?
The overall costs of operating a New York LLC can vary considerably based on the specifics of your business. However, we created a helpful guide to help you identify and plan for every expense your LLC will face in this state.
Should I Use an LLC Service, Hire an Attorney, or Foreign Qualify My Own LLC?
The answer to this question lies in your personal preferences, but we can give some general pointers. An attorney will cost the most by a mile, but also provides expertise you won’t find with the other options. The DIY route is free of charge, but can require quite a bit of legwork and provides no peace of mind that the process is being completed correctly.
Using an LLC service means your business will be foreign qualified by professionals who know what they’re doing, while also costing significantly less than a lawyer. This “best of both worlds” attribute is what makes LLC services our preferred option.
How Do Online LLC Services Work?
Using an online LLC service removes much of the hassle from the foreign qualification process. With these services, all you need to do is provide them with the name, location, and industry your business operates in, along with some info about yourself and your registered agent.
The service then registers your Certificate of Authority (or similarly named document) with the state to qualify your LLC to do business there.
Are LLC Service Websites Legit?
Absolutely. There are quite a few reputable companies offering LLC formation service and foreign qualifications these days, including the two options we discussed earlier: MyCompanyWorks and IncFile.
In fact, while we certainly have our opinions about which ones offer the best pricing and features, every one of the incorporation services we discuss on this website is entirely legitimate and trustworthy.
Need to save time?
Let’s face it, there’s never enough time in the day, especially when you’re running a company. And properly registering your LLC in New York involves research and time, time that you could be using to continue growing your business.
If the thought of paperwork, fees and state correspondence makes your head spin, consider using a service like Northwest Registered Agent to foreign qualify your business. Services like Northwest ensure that your forms are filed correctly and on-time, potentially saving you thousands of dollars in penalties, not to mention a bunch of time and stress.