You have a big idea, truckloads of ambition, dreams of a thriving Virginia 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 Articles of Organization.
With such grand plans, the last thing you might want to do is file paperwork, but completing the Articles of Organization is what authenticates your LLC, making it official in Virginia. It’s perhaps the most important step in starting your Virginia LLC. Following this guide will help take the tedium out of paperwork and get your business started quickly.
But before you dive into the Articles of Organization, you should have a few pieces of information ready to help streamline the process.
Quick Note: If you’d like to have an online service file the Articles of Organization for you or simply need to save time, hire an LLC formation service. Two popular options are LegalZoom and ZenBusiness.
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 State Corporation Commission deems that name unacceptable or unavailable, the document will be rejected, so make sure you nail down a good name right away.
Respect Virginia’s business name requirements by including the words “limited company” or “limited liability company,” or the abbreviation “LC,” “L.C.,” “LLC” or “L.L.C.” and avoiding certain restricted words (found here). Most importantly, your name must not already be on record with the State Corporation Commission. To find out if a name is available, search for it using the SCC’s Business Entity Search, and if your search returns no results, you’re in the clear.
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.
Choosing a Virginia Registered Agent
A registered agent is your LLC’s liaison to the commonwealth, the mediator who takes care of all your important legal, tax, and compliance documents, keeping your business in good standing. Completing the Articles of Organization requires you to include your registered agent’s name and address, so make your choice before you begin the form.
Your registered agent can be either an individual, provided that they are part of the LLC’s management or a member of the Virginia State Bar. Or, you can use a business entity like a registered agent service, as long as they have a physical address in Virginia (no P.O. boxes) and are authorized to do business in the commonwealth.
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 Virginia 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 Virginia.
Considering the form’s immense importance, it’s a nice surprise that the Articles of Organization is brief and fairly simple. The process will go even faster if you gather all the necessary information beforehand. Here’s what you’ll need:
- LLC Name
- Registered agent name
- Registered agent type (individual or entity)
- Registered agent address
- Principal office address
- Organizer(s) name(s), signature(s), and telephone number(s)
And, like most government forms, you’re not getting out of it without paying a fee. For the Articles of Organization, it’s $100, so have your credit card or checkbook ready.
Filing online will assure that your form is processed immediately. Otherwise, standard hard copy processing takes 5-7 business days. However, you can request next-day processing for an extra $100 and same-day processing for an extra $200. These expedited options are available by filing an Expedited Service Request Form with your Articles of Organization.
The Virginia State Corporation Commission is flexible when it comes to filing, and they provide three different options:
In a hurry? This is your best bet. Head over to Virginia’s SCC eFile portal, click “Get Started” under the “New Business Formations” section, then follow the instructions to complete and submit your form, which will be processed as soon as you’re done.
Download and complete the paper application, then send your form, payment, and Expedited Service Request Form (optional) to:
State Corporation Commission Clerk’s Office
PO Box 1197
Richmond, VA 23218-1197
Live near Richmond? Feel free to drop off your form and payment in person at:
State Corporation Commission Clerk’s Office, First Floor
1300 E. Main St.
Richmond, VA 23219
What About Foreign LLCs?
The process outlined above works for domestic LLCs (those formed in Virginia), but what if your business is expanding to Virginia from another state? In this case, you can skip the Articles of Organization because you’ll need a different form.
Out-of-state entities entering Virginia need to foreign qualify by filing an Application for Certificate of Registration instead. You’re likely excited to start doing business in the commonwealth, but hold back until after your application has been processed. Operating without being granted authority can lead to severe penalties, include individual fines for managers, members, and employees.
But after you’ve successfully foreign qualified, you’re free to go ahead and begin your business activities in Virginia.
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 Virginia State Corporation Commission. 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.
Which is the Best LLC Service?
All you need to do now is research every service extensively and make side-by-side comparisons for each option. Easy, right? Just kidding – we did all of that for you.
And from our meticulous research of reviewing and ranking the top LLC services, we’ve drawn the conclusion that IncFile and Northwest are your best overall options.
They might not have the brand recognition of LegalZoom, the industry giant, but both have amazing customer support, affordable prices, and include a year of registered agent service.