What is a Registered Agent?
A registered agent is an individual or entity that has been designated by an LLC to receive and send legal documents on behalf of the LLC.
Typically, this includes service of process if the LLC is involved in any legal action, tax forms, or other official government notifications.
Registered agents make sure you do not miss any important information regarding your business, such as when to file your annual report. They also ensure due process, because a lawsuit cannot move forward unless your business is properly notified first.
So, if you’re a non-resident that has formed a business in the United States, having a registered agent is all the more important.
Qualifications for Your Registered Agent
The qualifications for a company’s registered agent are simple and straightforward:
A registered agent must have a physical address. P.O. Boxes are not allowed, because someone must be readily available to receive service of process or other important documents during regular business hours.
An Agent for Every State
Typically, you will register as a Domestic LLC in the state you form your company in.
However, if you need to do business in multiple states as a Foreign LLC, meaning that your business is also registered outside of your original state of formation, you must also have registered agents located in those states.
Using an agent that operates in all 50 states can help make this easier, but will typically add additional costs to running your business as you will pay for the service per state.
Registered Agent Services
Many businesses use professional registered agent services.
They assure that someone will always be there during regular business hours to receive important documents. They will also digitally or physically forward you notices and documents.
If you’re a non-resident and live outside the country, this is especially helpful.
Another benefit to such services is that they can keep your business up-to-date on state requirements by sending reminders for filings, and even file forms like annual reports for you. They also keep a copy of your important documents in case yours are lost.
Some small businesses, however, prefer not to hire a registered agent service, because they feel they can serve as their own registered agent, which may be true.
If you’re a small business, operating only in one state, with regular business hours, and have a physical location, with someone available to receive notice and important documents, it’s possible you can serve as your own registered agent.
However, if you’re a non-resident living outside the US, this is only possible if you have a US-based person who can serve as the registered agent.
Here’s a list of the top registered agent services on Startup Savant.
Can an Employee Be a Registered Agent?
Yes, an employee of your business can be a registered agent, however, keep in mind that this person must be readily available during business hours to receive important documents and be able to timely forward the documents to the appropriate person(s).
Professional registered agent services will always have someone available to receive such documents.
If you designate a specific employee as your registered agent, this could cause some inconveniences when your employee is ill, on vacation, or leaves your company.
Many employers also prefer to avoid any potential embarrassment or commotion of receiving service of process for a lawsuit in front of their employees and clients. Having a third-party registered agent receive a service of process helps to avoid such embarrassments.
Can I Be My Own Registered Agent?
Yes, you can be your own registered agent, if you live in the US and specifically the state your LLC is formed.
If you do not, then it is not possible. However, being a registered agent is more than just sorting through mail, especially if you operate in multiple states. Keeping track of each state’s due dates and rules will take time away from running your business.
Also, if you do live in the US, and run your business from home, then you’d most likely be listing your home address as your physical registered agent address, which shows up in your state’s public company database. Having a third-party registered agent will help protect your privacy.
Also, if you travel frequently or work irregular business hours, it’s helpful to have someone else available to receive these documents and notify you right away.
What is the Best Registered Agent Service for my US LLC?
In addition to having an office in the state of your LLC, we encourage you to find a national registered agent service with the following features:
- Compliance management: reminders for filing annual reports and other important deadlines.
- Document management: local scanning of all official documents so you can access them from your online account
- Availability: a reliable customer service team who can answer any questions you may have.
- Thorough coverage: the ability to provide registered agent services in all 50 states.
ZenBusiness provides the most comprehensive registered agent services you can get for the price. They are also up-front about offering premium features like their worry-free guarantee, a service in which they file your company's annual report and other compliance documentation.
Registered Agent Service
Starting at $99 Annually
(for those who already have an LLC)
LLC Formation + 1yr Included Registered Agent Service
$39 + State Fees
(Registered Agent: $119 after 1st year)
Is it Difficult to Change Registered Agents?
It is not difficult to change your registered agent in most states. There may be a fee, but otherwise you can easily do so by filling out the proper form for your state’s business services office, or by filing your company’s annual report, or an addendum to this report.
The bottom line is that having a registered agent is required the state your US business is formed in, and is important for maintaining a good standing, by keeping you up-to-date on important notices and deadlines.
There are many benefits to hiring a professional registered agent service, especially if you’re a non-resident business owner.
This is because a registered agent service maintains regular business hours, at an in-state physical location and keeps you compliant with Annual Report filings, compliance notifications, an up-to-date on service of process for your company.