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.
What happens if I fail to foreign qualify before doing business in Utah?
Foreign qualifying is essentially asking permission to do business in the state of Utah. 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 Utah yields consequences that are far costlier than registering in the first place.
If your LLC conducts business in Utah without foreign qualifying, it will be disallowed from maintaining or commencing any lawsuits in a Utah court. Not only that, but the Attorney General may also cut you off from doing business in the state.
Although conducting business without authorization won’t completely halt all of your LLC’s activities in Utah. For example, it won’t impair the validity of your existing in-state contracts, nor will it prevent you from defending a lawsuit.
Interested in the legal context for these penalties? Check out the Utah Code, Section 48-3a-902.
What is considered “doing business” in Utah?
We’ve established why you shouldn’t do business without a foreign qualification. But what exactly does it mean to “do business” in Utah? In summary, you are considered to be “doing business” in Utah and required to foreign qualify if:
- Your LLC has an established and continuous physical presence in the state, like stores, offices, warehouses, etc.
- There is a level of permanence to your business activity in Utah, rather than seldom, isolated transactions
- You have employees, salespeople or representatives in the state who are working on behalf of your LLC
Generally, if your business is consistently profiting off of Utah’s economy, you’re doing business in the state.
And how could we forget to mention taxes? Depending on how you’ve structured your LLC, you may have to pay certain business-related taxes in Utah. Without a foreign qualification on file, the state won’t know how to tax you. Initially, this might seem like a good thing, but in the long run, it’ll likely end up in greater fines and penalties. It’s important to always stay on top of your LLC’s taxation requirements to avoid any unwelcome surprises.
If you’re unsure whether or not you need to file for a foreign qualification in Utah, we suggest seeking legal counsel.
Could I be exempt from foreign qualifying in Utah?
The foreign qualification, however, isn’t a hard and fast rule for all LLCs performing any kind of action in Utah. Certain actions do not qualify as “doing business” and therefore don’t require a foreign qualification. Some examples are:
- Participating in litigation
- Carrying on internal affairs, like holding in-state meetings of LLC members and/or managers
- Keeping bank accounts
- Maintaining offices for the management of the LLC’s own securities
- Selling products or services through independent contractors
- Creating or collecting debts
- Owning property in Utah
- Completing a single transaction—outside of your typical business dealings—within a window of 30 days.
Take a look at Utah Code, Section 48-3a-905 for a more detailed list. If your only Utah business activities appear here, congrats! You can likely skip foreign qualification. But, again, if you’re at all unsure, it’s best to seek legal advice.
How to Foreign Qualify Your LLC in Utah
Foreign qualification in Utah 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 Utah, the quickest and easiest way to do so is through the OneStop Business Registration portal. This is also the method that the Division of Corporations and Commercial Code prefers.
The first thing you need to do is create an account. After you’re logged in, click “Begin Registration,” then, “I am registering a new business in Utah.” The site will guide you through a series of pages where you can input your business information. At the end, you’ll be prompted to pay the $70 application fee with a credit or debit card.
Even though the state recommends that you complete all filings online, they still accept paper forms. If you prefer to work with a hard copy, download the “Foreign Registration Statement” and fill it out with the required information. Make sure to type everything, as the state will not accept handwritten forms.
When finished, mail your application to the Utah Division of Corporations & Commercial Code at P.O. Box 146705, Salt Lake City, Utah 84114-6705.
You may also fax it to (801) 530-6438, but you must include a “Fax Cover Letter.”
You must also include a Certificate of Good Standing from your home state with both paper and online filings. This certificate cannot be more than 90 days old.
By mail, you can pay your $70 fee with a check or money order, made out to the “State of Utah.” For in-person deliveries, pay with a check, card, or cash. Faxed forms must include credit card information on the Fax Cover Letter.
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
You wouldn’t want your foreign qualification process held up by a non-compliant business name, so take a moment to confirm that your LLC name follows all of Utah’s naming rules. It must:
- Include “limited company,” “limited liability company,” “L.C.,” or “L.L.C.”
- Not use any of the state’s “restricted words.” Find a list of them here.
- Be distinguishable from all business entity names currently registered or reserved with the Division of Corporations and Commercial Code. Perform a Utah LLC name search to make sure the name you want is available.
You can also reserve your Utah business name if you’re not quite ready to foreign qualify your LLC.
Should I hire a service to file my Utah 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 Utah 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 Utah 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 Utah foreign LLC professionally registered, go with an online business service provider. There are plenty of reputable companies that can help you out with Utah 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 Utah to Process a Foreign Qualification?
You’ll typically need to wait roughly 1-2 business days for Utah to process an application submitted online. If you choose to mail your forms, expect it to take a couple of weeks.
Where Can I Learn More About the Utah LLC Licensing and Permitting Requirements?
Chances are, you’ll require at least one license or permit to operate your LLC in compliance with Utah state law. For more information about business licenses and more in this state, check out Utah’s convenient Online Business Registration portal that registers your business with five state agencies and provides any license applications you may need.
Do I Need to File an Annual Renewal for My Foreign LLC in Utah?
Yes. Whether you operate a domestic or foreign LLC in this state, you are required to file a Utah LLC Annual Renewal.
What Is the Total Expected Cost of Operating an LLC in Utah?
The overall costs of operating a Utah 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 Utah registered agent.
The service then files your Foreign Registration Statement with the state to qualify your LLC to do business in Utah.
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 Utah 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.