LLCs in California are legally required to appoint a California registered agent — known by the state as an agent for service of process.
Business owners often elect to hire a registered agent service, which offers:
- Increased privacy and reduced risk
- Secure document storage
- Affordable prices ($10-$15 per month)
Recommended: Use Northwest Registered Agent for LLC formation ($29 plus state fees) and get free registered agent services for a year.
Choosing a Registered Agent in California
All corporations, limited liability companies (LLCs), and other types of entities are required to appoint and maintain an agent as part of their formation filing with the California Secretary of State.
California business owners can enlist a registered agent service or appoint their own. An agent must:
- Be 18 years of age or older
- Have a physical address in California
- Be available during normal business hours
Registered Agent Services
- Convenience: Available for service of process during business hours at the registered address, so you will not need to be there yourself.
- Privacy: Any information regarding your service's name and address will be made public instead of your name and address.
- Compliance and Online Storage: Your agent will compile, manage, and file all documentation pertaining to your company so that you can put your attention to the accomplishment of your business.
Let’s Find the Right Registered Agent for Your Business
We’ve tested and reviewed the most popular registered agent services.
Can You Be Your Own Registered Agent?
The option of being your own registered agent is technically available to those interested, but many choose to hire a registered agent service instead of doing it themselves.
The most significant advantage of being your own agent is that you’ll be conserving money. However, this service is pretty inexpensive, costing around $10/month.
The main upside to being your own registered agent is the cost savings. The average service charges about $130 per year, or about $10 per month. By acting as your own registered agent, you can allocate the $10 elsewhere.
Any cost savings need to be weighed against any disadvantages:
- You will be legally required to be at the listed address during regular business hours to receive service of process.
- Keeping up with official records can be time-consuming.
- If the paperwork is not completed as promptly as required, that can cause legal liability along with fines and penalties.
- It may not be possible for you to access the same resources as a third-party service.
When forming a new LLC, many formation services offer a free year of registered agent services. These formation services charge as little as $29 (plus state fees). Using such a service makes hiring a registered agent service free.
If you are forming an LLC but prefer to file the paperwork yourself and act as your own registered agent, take a look at our How to Start an LLC in California guide.
Best California Registered Agent Service
If you're in California and either looking to form a new LLC or switch your existing registered agent, it's crucial to consider factors like cost, range of services, reputation, and customer support.
Many people seek registered agents offering features like mail forwarding, document scanning, and compliance monitoring.
Northwest Special Offer
If you haven't formed your LLC yet, consider Northwest's LLC formation package for $29 plus state fees, which includes a free first year of registered agent service.
- Premium customer service
- Streamlined ordering
- Robust privacy features
To help you make an informed choice, we've compiled a table comparing the top 5 California registered agent services below.
Top 5 California Registered Agent Services
BEST REGISTERED AGENT SERVICE
TRUSTED AND WELL-KNOWN COMPANY
Whether you're starting a new business or considering a change, it's crucial to weigh factors like pricing, services, reputation, and customer support when choosing a registered agent in California. Compare quotes and read online reviews to find the best fit for your needs.
Registered Agent Services Offer Many Benefits
Many businesses choose to use a registered agent service when they form an LLC. This is because it can offer a number of benefits, including:
- Legal compliance: The service will ensure that you do not miss an important legal document or notification (e.g., service of process, etc.) as a result of not being in your office (or as a result of a human error).
- Improved privacy: If you act as your own agent, your name and address will become public record on the California Business Search website. Using a service will help keep your information private, offering a physical street address for your limited liability company.
- Discretion: When it comes to legal disputes, you will want to avoid receiving lawsuit-related documents in front of your clients and/or some employees. California registered agent services accept service of process at their business address.
- Better storage: Your commercial registered agent service will generally scan all documents received and upload them online in PDF form. This means that you will always be able to access them online, and won’t have to worry about an employee accidentally losing an important document.
A service can also be beneficial if you plan to expand into other states as a foreign LLC. This is because, otherwise, you would need to find an individual or business entity that is a resident — or is allowed to transact business — in each state that you want to register in.
How to Elect a Registered Agent in California
Electing an Agent Online
You can form your LLC online on the California Secretary of State website ($70 filing fee). Your registered agent’s name and contact information will be requested under Article III of the online form:
Electing an Agent by Mail or In Person
To form your California LLC by mail, download Form LLC-1: Articles of Organization ($70 filing fee), fill out the required fields, and submit a physical copy to the California Secretary of State. Your agent’s name and contact information will be requested in Article 3.
How to Change Your Registered Agent in California
You can update your agent by filing a California Statement of Information. Make sure to then submit it to the California Secretary of State along with the $25 (corporations) or $20 (LLCs) filing fee.
The form you file will depend on whether you are changing a corporate, nonprofit, or LLC registered agent:
- Form LLC-12: Limited Liability Company
- Form SI-550: Stock Corporation
- Form SI-100: Nonstock Corporation
This can be done online, by mail, or in person.
Secretary of State
Business Programs Division - Statement of Information
P.O. Box 944230
Sacramento, CA 94244-2300
Secretary of State
1500 11th St.
Sacramento, CA 95814
Check out our full guide on how to change registered agents in California.
Registered Agent FAQ
Can I be my own registered agent in California?
While it is possible to act as your own registered agent in California, it is important to consider all the requirements and potential implications. Most businesses hire a registered agent service that offers a California business address and other premium services for compliance reasons.
Who can be a California registered agent?
In California, a registered agent can be a person or business entity that has a physical address in the state and who is available during regular business hours. Business entities must elect an individual who is at least 18 years old and a California resident.
Are registered agents required in California?
Yes, California requires all corporations and limited liability companies (LLCs) to appoint and continuously maintain a registered agent in the state. The agent must have a physical address located in California where service of process can be accepted during normal business hours. Failure to comply can result in administrative penalties imposed by the state.
How much does it cost to get a registered agent in California?
The exact cost of a registered agent in California will vary depending on the service provider. Generally, you can expect to pay an annual fee of between $100–$200 for this service. Additionally, some services may require an additional setup fee or other fees for added features or services.
How do I find a registered agent in California?
It is important to note that while you may select any individual or entity as your registered agent, it is wise to use a professional service provider who specializes in this type of work. A California registered agent service is more reliable and can provide additional benefits such as help with filing documents and other related services.
What is an agent for service of process?
An agent for service of process, also called a registered agent, statutory agent, resident agent, or process server, is an individual or organization responsible for receiving legal documents on behalf of a California business.
What are the state requirements for becoming an agent for service of process in California?
For a business or individual to be considered a registered agent in California, a Registered Corporate Agent for Service of Process Certificate (Form 1505) must be filled out and filed with the California Secretary of State. What’s more, you must be at least 18, a resident of California, and available to receive service of process during regular business hours.