California Registered Agent

A California registered agent, also known as an agent for service of process, is required by law for every formal business in the state of California. A registered agent receives all official paperwork from the California Secretary of State, they also receive any service of process a business may be served with in any lawsuit.

In our California Registered Agent guide, we'll go over everything related to what a registered agent is, what they do, and how to pick one.

Recommended: Get a free year of registered agent services when you form an LLC with Northwest Registered Agent ($39 plus state fees).


What Is A California Registered Agent?

A California registered agent is an individual or business entity that acts as the point of contact for your business for: 

  • All communication with the State of California, such as the California Annual Report and certificate of good standing 
  • Receives all service of process for the business in any lawsuit

Every formal business in California eg LLC, corporation, etc is required by law to have a registered agent. 

For more information on the role of registered agents, read our What is a Registered Agent guide.

For help forming your LLC, use our California LLC guide.

Can I Be My Own Registered Agent In California?

Yes, any owner or employee of a business can be its registered agent in California as long as they are over the age of 18, and have a street address in California.

You could also choose to elect a member of your LLC, or even a friend you trust, as long as the person meets these requirements too.

Though many businesses prefer to use a professional registered agent service.

Why Businesses Use a California Registered Agent Service

Many businesses choose to use a registered agent service when they form an LLC, here are some of the reasons why:

Compliance

A registered agent service maintains a compliance calendar and will remind you when annual reports or other filings are due, and help you file them. 

This helps you to avoid fines and keeps your company in good standing, which is important to maintain your limited liability protection.

Legal complications, fees, or any other issues can arise if you do not respond quickly to service of process. A registered agent will scan your documents, share them with you online, and notify you when they are available.

Privacy

If you work from home, or even a private office, and act as your own registered agent, your address will be published publicly on the California Business Entities Search.

If you value your privacy, a registered agent service will use their own address in place of yours.

Discretion

Receiving service of process for a lawsuit at your business can be a sensitive situation to have happen in front of your employees and clients. 

To avoid having this issue a registered agent will receive any service of process and other documents at their office, and discreetly deliver them to you online.

Flexibility

If you are your own registered agent, you must be available at all normal business hours, every working day of the year. 

Registered agent services run physical offices and have staff to cover those hours, so they can be available at those times

Hiring a registered agent service allows you to be more flexible in the hours and locations you work. So, take a vacation, work from home or the office, or travel the world, knowing they’re around to take your paperwork.

Online Storage

A good registered agent service will scan your documents as soon as they are received, storing a digital copy of all your business documents and any service of process available on a convenient dashboard.

Typically, if you’ve used an LLC formation service, you will also use them as a registered agent. This means that a copy of your formation documents will also be available online.

Having all of this information, available as PDFs, is very helpful when you need to do things for your business, such as opening a business bank account, applying for a business credit card, applying for small business loans, and many more things that require a copy of your documents.

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Recommended: See the Best California Registered Agent

National Coverage

If you plan on expanding your business into other states like if you’re hiring an out-of-state employee or opening a new sales office, a registered agent is necessary for your foreign LLC or other entity.

Most registered agent services operate in all 50 states and Washington D.C. Just pay a little extra for the new state you operate in, and they will deliver all those documents to the same online dashboard.

Best California Registered Agent Service

The cost of hiring a registered agent service is typically around $50 to $300 per year. This is a small cost when you consider how much time it will save you — it’s well worth the price.

Best California Registered Agent Service

Northwest is the best registered agent service based on overall quality and transparent pricing. Northwest offers a seamless user experience and best-in-industry customer service and privacy protection

When you choose Northwest as your registered agent service, you'll get an online account to access essential documents, mail forwarding, and business address services. 

Northwest’s virtual mailbox service will scan your mail and forward it to you electronically. This means that you can keep track of your mail no matter where you are in the world.

Registered Agent Standard



$125 Annually

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LLC Formation + 1 yr Free Registered Agent Service



One Year Free Registered Agent with LLC Formation $39 (Plus State Fees)

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If you want to explore all your options, check out this article on the 7 Best Registered Agent Services written by our friends at Startup Savant.

How Do I Elect A Registered Agent In California?

In California, you will be required to elect your registered agent when you complete your LLC’s Articles of Organization. The Articles of Organization is the main LLC formation document in California.

Electing a Registered Agent Online

You can form your LLC online on the California Secretary of State website ($70 filing fee required). Your registered agent’s name and contact information will be requested under Article III of the online form:

An image of the online LLC filing form for the state of California

Electing a Registered Agent by Mail

To form your LLC by mail, download the Articles of Organization ($70 filing fee and an additional $15 required), fill out the required fields and submit a physical copy at the California Secretary of State. You’ll be asked to provide your registered agent’s information on page 6 under the “Service of Process” section:

An image of the manual LLC filing form for the state of California

How Do I Change My Registered Agent In California?

To change your California registered agent, simply fill out a Statement of Information form and submit it to the California Secretary of State. There are separate forms for different business structures. The filing fee is $25 for corporations and $20 for LLCs.

California has different forms for different business structure types:

This can be done online, by mail, or in person.

Online:

Corporation Filing
LLC Filing

Mail:

Secretary of State
Business Programs Division - Statement of Information
P.O. Box 944230
Sacramento, CA 94244-2300

In-Person:

Secretary of State
1500 11th St.
Sacramento, CA 95814

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For more information read our how to change registered agents in California guide.

Registered Agent FAQ

Do I need a registered agent in California?

Every U.S. state, with the exception of New York, requires all corporations and limited liability companies (LLCs) to have a registered agent. A registered agent may be called different names in different states, such as a resident agent, a statutory agent, or an agent for service of process.

How much does a registered agent cost?

The cost of a registered agent varies, but it can be anywhere from free (if you act as your company’s registered agent) to a few hundred dollars a year for some third-party services.

Hiring a registered agent service could save you time and money in the long-run.

What is a service of process agent?

A service of process agent is another name for a registered agent, a resident agent, or a statutory agent.

The state of California refers to registered agents as service of process agents.

What does “service of process” mean?

Service of process means receiving legal documents, such as a summons. A summons is an order to appear before a judge due to a pending lawsuit.

Does registered agent mean owner?

No. A business owner can be a registered agent, but a registered agent is not necessarily a business owner.

How to Become a Registered Agent in California

To become a registered agent in California as an individual or business entity, you must: 

  1. Be over the age of 18.
  2. Have a street address in California.
  3. Have the business you’re representing list your name and address on their formation or change of registered agent documents.

After this, the State of California will send you official correspondence for annual reports, service of process, and other compliance information for the business you represent.

What is a registered agent service?

A registered agent service is a company that agrees to receive service of process for an LLC, corporation, or nonprofit.

California Business Resources

References

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