How to Get Business License and Permits in California


Steve Goldstein
Steve Goldstein
Business Formation Expert
Steve Goldstein runs LLCBuddy, helping entrepreneurs set up their LLCs easily. He offers clear guides, articles, and FAQs to simplify the process. His team keeps everything accurate and current, focusing on state rules, registered agents, and compliance. Steve’s passion for helping businesses grow makes LLCBuddy a go-to resource for starting and managing an LLC.

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Get Business License and Permits in California

One of the critical aspects of setting up a successful business in California is navigating the process of obtaining the necessary licenses and permits. These legal prerequisites ensure that your business operations comply with California regulations, protect your investment, and minimize potential liabilities. Business licenses and permits are as important as registering your business. If you want to start a business in California, you must obtain diverse licenses and permits to run the business.

One must know that registering the business and applying for licenses are not the same in California. There might be some businesses that need to be registered but do not need any licenses or permits. For example, for a graphic designing business, if you create an LLC in California, you must register your LLC with the secretary of state. Still, you don’t mandatorily need to obtain a business license. California, popularly knowns as The Golden State, has some rules and regulations when it comes to starting a business. You need to apply for state and federal licenses. In many states, you might also need local licenses based on the nature of your business.

In this article, we will explore the ins and outs of applying for business licenses and permits in California. To ensure a smooth application process, we recommend reading this article in its entirety before proceeding with your license applications.

What is Business License and Permit in California

If you’re running a business or are willing to start one, you must know about the licenses and permits. A business license is permission from the government to operate a business of any nature in California. Typically, as a driver’s license allows you to drive your car, a business license allows you to run your business.

Business licenses are different from business registration. The registration process depends on the structure of your business, for example, California LLC. But a business license depends on your industry. For example, a graphic designer may not need to get a license but must register their business in California. So, your LLC might not need a specific license, but if you are selling medical cannabis, you must get the proper license for it.

Most states in the United States need a general business license. California is one of those states where businesses must get this license. Besides, you must get state and federal licenses.

What Do You Need Before You Apply For Business Licenses and Permits

If you’re in the initial step of forming an LLC or any business, you must wait until your business registration in California is done. Once you are done with all the steps to file your business in California, you must be ready with the following documents to apply for the business licenses,

You may need other types of documents before you apply for the business licenses, depending on the business nature. Checking with the local city/county authorities for better information is recommended for clearer information.

LLCBuddy Editorial Team

How to Apply for Business Licenses and Permits in California

In California, applying for business licenses and permits is easy. Before applying for it, check with the local authority for license requirements. Here, we have shared three broad categories of licenses. One, State permits and licenses. Two, federal licenses, and finally, a professional license.

Step 1: Get State Licenses and Permits in California

Obviously, the state where you will conduct your business must have some license requirements. You need to search for the required permits and licenses in the state. Businesses must apply to the California Department of Tax and Fee Administration for state licenses. You can search for business licenses in several ways. Read about how to do a business license search to know the process and requirements.

In some states, it is mandatory to get a privileged license. California is no doubt a business-friendly state. It is one of the states that need to get the privilege license. Businesses must go to the official website of the California Department of Tax and Fee Administration and search for the licenses and permits they require based on their business.

Step 2: Get Federal Licenses and Permits

Once you’re done applying for State licenses, it is time to apply for Federal business licenses. Following are the licenses one must have if they are conducting business in the following fields,

  • Agriculture: License issued by The U.S. Department of Agriculture
  • Aviation: License issued by The Federal Aviation Administration
  • Alcohol & Tobacco: License issued by The Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau
  • Ammunition, Explosive, & Firearms: License issued by The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives.
  • Radio & Television (Broadcast): License issued by The Federal Communications Commission
  • Mining & Drilling: License issued by The Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement
  • Commercial Fisheries: License issued by The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Fisheries Service
  • Wildlife & Fisheries: License issued by The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
  • Nuclear Energy: License issued by The U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission
  • Transportation by Sea: License issued by The Federal Maritime Commission

If your business belongs to any of the industries mentioned above, you must obtain state as well as federal licenses.

Step 3: Search for Other State Permits and Licenses in California

Apart from general business licenses and privilege licenses, there might be other licenses and permits that businesses must obtain in California. As I mentioned, business licenses solely depend on the type of industry you are in. Different states have different licensing policies. You must go to the official website of the California Department of Tax and Fee Administration to find out the special licenses your business needs.

You will also find the probate offices in California through the California Department of Tax and Fee Administration website. You can drop by the probate office and find out the details about your licenses. Some common permits, such as building permits, health permits, signage permits, zoning permits, and environmental permits, are required if you’re in a related industry.

Step 4: City-based Permits and Licenses in California

Now, it’s time to consider local authority requirements. Once you’ve completed federal and state formalities, you should check with your local city authorities for any additional permits that may be required. In some cases, certain permits might be issued by local government offices rather than state or federal agencies. As a result, it’s essential to visit your local government office soon after setting up your business to apply for any necessary permits.

Keep in mind that you may come across some licenses that may not seem directly related to your profession. For example, you might not think you need a health permit as a hairstylist. However, it might be a requirement in your city. Such permits help protect you and your fellow California entrepreneurs from potential legal issues.

Step 5: Home-based Business Licence in California

The licensing is different if your business is home-based in California. An initial inspection takes place based on the type of business you are conducting from your home. For example, if you are selling homemade edibles, then it is necessary to check the place’s hygiene. California state and local authorities will visit your home to check if things are good and hygienic. Based on that, you will get the permit or license to run a home-based business in California.

Home-based business licenses are issued on the basis of the nature of your business. Issuance, expiration, and renewal of this type of license are different from conventional state and federal licenses. To know more about home-based business license requirements, do pay a visit to the local revenue office.

Step 6: Get a Professional License in California

This is a special type of license. A professional license is issued only to those with special education, training, and degree. For example, teachers, nurses, doctors, and engineers are eligible to get this license.

In California, professionals like doctors, engineers, teachers, and nurses obtain this license to start working independently in these fields. Professional Licenses are issued by the California Department of Tax and Fee Administration and only to those with special education, degree, and/or training.

How to Maintain Your Business Licenses in California

In California, businesses typically need to maintain two types of licenses: general state and federal licenses and professional licenses. General state and federal licenses usually expire after one year and are automatically renewed, provided the business is in good standing. Once expired, entrepreneurs must pay the annual fees to renew these licenses.

The rules for professional licenses in California are slightly different. In order to maintain or renew a professional license, individuals often need to complete continuing education requirements. For example, a doctor with a professional license must continue studying and training to stay up-to-date with new medical technology and treatments. The professional can renew their license after finishing the required training or education.

FAQs

What is a business license in California?
A business license is a local government permit that allows a business to operate in the state of California.
Do I need a business license to operate in California?
Yes, all businesses operating in California are required to obtain a business license.
What permits do I need to start a business in California?
Depending on the type of business you are operating, you may need to acquire certain permits or licenses from the state, county or city in California.
Do I need a sales tax permit in California?
Yes, if you are selling or renting tangible personal property or providing taxable services in California, you are required to obtain a California Seller’s Permit.
How do I get a business license in California?
To obtain a business license in California, you must contact the local government office in the city or county where your business is located.
How much does a business license cost in California?
The cost of a business license in California can vary and typically ranges from $50 to $100.
Can I get a business license online in California?
Yes, some local governments in California offer online applications for business licenses.
How long does it take to get a business license in California?
The processing time for a business license in California can vary and typically takes one to five business days.
How long is a business license valid for in California?
Business licenses issued in California are valid for one year from the date of issuance, unless otherwise noted.
Do I need a special license to do business in California?
Depending on the type of business you are operating, you may need to obtain a special license from the state, county or city in California.
Do I need a DBA (Doing Business As) in California?
Yes, if you are operating a business in California under a name other than your own name, you are required to register a DBA.
How do I register a DBA in California?
To register a DBA in California, you must contact the local government office in the city or county where your business is located.
How much does it cost to register a DBA in California?
The cost of registering a DBA in California can vary and typically ranges from $25 to $50.
Are there any special permits or licenses I need to open a restaurant in California?
Yes, if you are opening a restaurant in California, you may need to obtain a restaurant license and/or a health permit from the local government office in the city or county where your business is located.
How do I get a liquor license in California?
To obtain a liquor license in California, you must contact the local government office in the city or county where your business is located.
How much does a liquor license cost in California?
The cost of a liquor license in California can vary and typically ranges from $1,000 to $12,000.
Are there any special permits or licenses I need to open a daycare in California?
Yes, you must obtain an operating permit from the California Department of Social Services.
How do I get a firearm permit in California?
To obtain a firearm permit in California, you must contact the local government office in the city or county where your business is located.
How much does a firearm permit cost in California?
The cost of a firearm permit in California can vary and typically ranges from $35 to $50.
Are there any special permits or licenses I need to open a medical clinic in California?
Yes, you must obtain a medical clinic license from the California Department of Public Health.
How do I get a contractor’s license in California?
To obtain a contractor’s license in California, you must contact the California Contractors State License Board.
How much does a contractor’s license cost in California?
The cost of a contractor’s license in California can vary and typically ranges from $300 to $500.
Are there any special permits or licenses I need to open a retail store in California?
Yes, you may need to obtain a sales tax permit from the California State Board of Equalization.
How do I get a special event permit in California?
To obtain a special event permit in California, you must contact the local government office in the city or county where your business is located.
How much does a special event permit cost in California?
The cost of a special event permit in California can vary and typically ranges from $50 to $75.
Are there any special permits or licenses I need to open a bar in California?
Yes, you must obtain a Type 47 Liquor License from the California Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control.
How do I get a tobacco permit in California?
To obtain a tobacco permit in California, you must contact the local government office in the city or county where your business is located.
How much does a tobacco permit cost in California?
The cost of a tobacco permit in California can vary and typically ranges from $100 to $200.
Are there any special permits or licenses I need to open a pharmacy in California?
Yes, you must obtain a pharmacy license from the California State Board of Pharmacy.
How do I get an auto dealer permit in California?
To obtain an auto dealer permit in California, you must contact the California Department of Motor Vehicles.
How much does an auto dealer permit cost in California?
The cost of an auto dealer permit in California can vary and typically ranges from $200 to $400.

Also Read

Why California Licenses Permits is So Important

Licensing and permitting are essential components of the regulatory framework that governs various industries and activities in the state. From driving a car to operating a business, obtaining the necessary licenses and permits is a fundamental requirement for individuals and entities to engage in lawful activities. These licenses and permits serve as a form of authorization from the government, indicating that the holder has met certain standards and qualifications, and is therefore permitted to engage in specific activities.

In the realm of public safety, licensing and permitting play a critical role in ensuring that only qualified individuals are allowed to operate potentially dangerous equipment or handle hazardous materials. For example, professional drivers must have a valid driver’s license in order to operate vehicles on California’s roads, while individuals working in industries such as construction or healthcare may be required to obtain specific licenses to demonstrate their competency and expertise in their respective fields.

Beyond public safety, licenses and permits are also essential for regulatory compliance and accountability. By requiring individuals and businesses to obtain the necessary licenses before engaging in certain activities, the state is able to effectively regulate these industries and ensure that they are operating in accordance with the law. This not only serves to protect consumers and the public at large but also helps to maintain a level playing field for businesses by preventing unqualified or unscrupulous operators from entering the market.

Moreover, licenses and permits are also important tools for revenue generation and economic development. The fees collected from the issuance of licenses and permits help to fund various public services and programs, ranging from infrastructure projects to public safety initiatives. In addition, the regulatory structure created by licensing and permitting requirements helps to instill trust and confidence in consumers, investors, and other stakeholders, which in turn can foster economic growth and development in the state.

Last but not least, licenses and permits provide individuals and businesses with a sense of legitimacy and professionalism. By obtaining the necessary licenses and permits, individuals and entities demonstrate their commitment to professionalism, ethics, and accountability, which can lead to enhanced reputation and credibility in the eyes of clients, partners, and competitors.

In conclusion, licenses and permits are a vital component of California’s regulatory landscape, serving to promote public safety, regulatory compliance, revenue generation, and economic development. By upholding the licensing and permitting requirements established by the state, individuals and businesses can contribute to a safe, ethical, and prosperous environment for all Californians. As such, it is imperative that we recognize the important role that licenses and permits play in our daily lives and strive to adhere to these requirements with diligence and integrity.

Conclusion

In conclusion, the business licenses required in California largely depend on the nature of your enterprise. While some state-specific requirements may exist, the type of business ultimately determines the necessary licenses. Some businesses might not need any licenses or permits to operate. To ensure compliance, it is strongly advised to consult with local authorities about any required licenses and permits for conducting business in your specific city or county within California.

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