You have a big idea, truckloads of ambition, dreams of a thriving North Dakota LLC, and you’re mentally prepared to make it happen.
But the Chinese philosopher Lao Tzu once said, “a journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step,” and for you, that first step is filing the Certificate of Formation.
With such grand plans, the last thing you might want to do is file paperwork, but completing the Certificate of Formation is what authenticates your LLC, making it official in North Dakota. It’s perhaps the most important step in starting your North Dakota LLC. Following this guide will help take the tedium out of paperwork and get your business started quickly.
But before you dive into the Certificate of Formation, you should have a few pieces of information ready to help streamline the process.
Recommended ✔If you want to make sure your LLC is formed correctly, hire an LLC service. Below are the top two that will take care of all the legal paperwork:
If getting the most value out of an LLC service is your priority, choose ZenBusiness. They charge one of the lowest rates online and include all the most important features when starting a business. Read Review. If you're on a strict budget and prefer using the cheapest LLC service, choose IncFile. They will form an LLC for free (plus state filing fee) and give you great features along the way. Read Review.
If getting the most value out of an LLC service is your priority, choose ZenBusiness. They charge one of the lowest rates online and include all the most important features when starting a business. Read Review.
If you're on a strict budget and prefer using the cheapest LLC service, choose IncFile. They will form an LLC for free (plus state filing fee) and give you great features along the way. Read Review.
Choosing an LLC Name
Before anything else, you will need to decide on an LLC name. You must include a business name on your Articles of Organization, and if the Secretary of State deems that name unacceptable or unavailable, the document will be rejected, so make sure you nail down a good name right away.
You might be excited about your new LLC name, but don’t go using it on your Articles of Organization or any marketing collateral before you’ve confirmed that it meets the state’s requirements. This means that it must include the words “limited liability company,” or the abbreviations “L.L.C.” or “LLC.” On top of that, it cannot imply unlawful activity or any other activity other than the ones you designate in your Articles of Organization.
After you’ve navigated all these rules, you also need to confirm that your name hasn’t already been taken. Perform a name search to find out if your desired name is already in use.
Once you’ve found your perfect name, include it on your Articles of Organization to automatically register it. In the event that you’re not quite ready to file an LLC, you can place a 120-day hold on your name by submitting a name reservation request.
IMPORTANT: Don’t forget to get your business domain name so nobody else can use it. This will protect your brand and make things much easier for you down the road. Secure it easily through GoDaddy.
Choosing a North Dakota Registered Agent
A registered agent is your LLC’s liaison to the state, the mediator who takes care of all your important legal, tax, and compliance documents, keeping your business in good standing. Your Articles of Organization won’t be complete unless it includes registered agent information, so be sure you have someone lined up before you begin filing.
Your registered agent can be either an individual – as long as they are a North Dakota resident – or a business entity authorized to do business in the state, like a registered agent service.
Once you designate a registered agent on your Articles of Organization, their information will become part of your LLC’s public record.
Quick Note: If your first choice doesn’t work out, don’t worry. You can always change your registered agent in the future.
Preparing to File Your North Dakota Articles of Organization
Now for the main event: the Articles of Organization. Here’s your opportunity to get your LLC officially on record and authorized to conduct business in North Dakota.
Without the Articles of Organization, your LLC formation process is non-existant. It’s the document that officially puts you on the map. Even so, the form itself isn’t excessively long or difficult. If you gather all the necessary information beforehand, it’ll be smooth sailing. Here’s what you’ll need:
- The LLC name
- Principal office address
- Registered agent name and address
- If applicable, a delayed effective date (up to 90 days following the filing)
- The LLC’s duration
- A business purpose
- A name, address, and signature for each organizer
Unfortunately, the Articles of Organization isn’t free. It costs $135, so have a credit card or checkbook ready when you fill it out.
You’ve collected your information. You’ve arranged your payment. Now, all that’s left is to officially submit the Articles of Organization. You have three filing options: online, by mail, and in person.
If you’d like to complete the entire process from your desk, you can do so via North Dakota’s First Stop online services. Create an account if you haven’t already, then select “Articles of Organization” and follow the instructions.
Print the form that you find on First Stop, fill it out, then mail it to:
Secretary of State
State of North Dakota
600 E Boulevard Avenue Dept 108
Bismarck ND 58505-0500
Live near Bismarck? You can drop off the Articles of Organization to the same address as part of your daily errands.
Despite which route you take, the Secretary of State’s typical processing time is 2-3 weeks, even up to four weeks in peak filing times.
What About Foreign LLCs?
The process outlined above works for domestic LLCs (those formed in North Dakota), but what if your business is expanding to North Dakota from another state? Don’t worry about the Articles of Organization. You’ll be taking a different path.
All out-of-state business entities need to foreign qualify by filing a Certificate of Authority Application. You might be excited to get going in North Dakota, but hold off on doing business in the state until you’ve successfully foreign qualified. Doing so can result in some serious fines and consequences.
After you’ve successfully received your Certificate of Authority, you’re free to kick off your business activities in North Dakota.
Want Help Filing Your Articles of Organization?
Let’s be honest: you’ve got a lot on your plate. Filing paperwork can take time away from your other tasks, ones more focused on setting your budding LLC up for success.
The good news is that you don’t need to file the Articles of Organization yourself. But if an attorney is out of your price range, hiring an LLC creation service is a great option.
There’s no shortage of business incorporation services out there, but not all of them are equal. Each one offers different packages, costs, and processing times, so it’s important to find the right fit for your LLC.
While each service has optional upgrades and perks packages, on the most basic level, they will review your business information, prepare your formation documents, and submit them to the North Dakota Secretary of State. They will complete everything outlined in this guide and notify you when your Articles of Organization has been filed. You won’t have to lift a finger.
There are other benefits too. Some services will include a year of free registered agent service when you hire them. Other services offer order tracking, notifications on future documents (like Annual Reports), assistance drafting your operating agreement, or coverage of certain LLC formation costs.