Using a virtual address for LLC formation is a low-cost and easy way for business owners to have a physical address without having to be at that address in person. A virtual address can also provide owners with privacy as well as additional professional credibility.
Our How to Get a Virtual Address for LLC Formation guide shows how to get a virtual business address for your LLC as well as how a virtual address differs from other possible types of business addresses.
Recommended: Earth Class Mail offers a low-cost virtual address service for LLCs.
Using a Virtual Address for LLC Formation
To register an LLC using a virtual address, you’ll need to hire a virtual address provider and then complete the steps to form an LLC in your state.
Note: You can form an LLC yourself or hire an LLC formation service like ZenBusiness to help you.
If you hire an LLC formation service, you’ll provide your virtual business address to the service provider. If you form your LLC yourself, you’ll provide your virtual business address when you complete the Articles of Organization.
How to Set Up a Virtual Address
- Register a physical street address with a virtual address service. This will involve picking a monthly service plan.
- Fill out USPS Form 1583 and make sure to have it notarized. You will need to provide two forms of ID (one must be a picture ID), which allows a third-party Commercial Mail Receiving Agency (i.e., your virtual mailbox service provider) to accept mail and packages on your behalf.
- Start receiving mail. You can have it scanned and emailed or arrange to have it forwarded to a different address.
Reasons to Use a Virtual Business Address
A virtual business address is a physical mailing address where you can receive mail for your company without needing to be physically present.
There are many benefits to having a virtual business address over a traditional USPS PO box. The most important reason is that you must have a physical address to start an LLC. A USPS PO box cannot be used to register a limited liability company or a corporation, plus virtual addresses are typically less costly than a USPS PO box.
Note: Virtual addresses are often used by out-of-country business owners when forming an LLC.
With a virtual address, you can do the following:
- Set up a business in a foreign country, different state, or a different location from where you reside.
- Open a business bank account in the United States.
- Set up a physical business location without having to rent commercial space. This can be especially useful if you are looking to start a new company without using your home address.
- Set up an ecommerce business, a service business with no physical location, a home-based business, or operate a contractor business out of the home.
- Retrieve mail anywhere, anytime. Your virtual address provider will accept your mail, scan it, send email notifications, and will forward the physical mail wherever you want. You’ll be able to save your mail digitally, organize it logically, and find it easily (similar to how email works).
- Set up a prestigious address (e.g., in a large city) to present your business as more professional and successful, creating more credibility and authority for your brand.
- Protect your privacy. Nobody can get ahold of your mail, and your home address stays protected. For example, if you go on vacation, you can still check your mail, knowing it’s safe in your virtual mailbox.
- Work from multiple locations. As noted above, a virtual business address does not tie you to one location. You can work from anywhere in the world with a virtual business setup and can even operate as a “solopreneur.”
- Set up additional business accounts, including online citations (e.g., Google Business Profile) or a DUNS Number for building business credit.
- Keep the same address — even if you move your business to another location within the same state.
Recommended: Earth Class Mail has virtual addresses to serve startups and small businesses at low rates.
Virtual Address vs. Registered Agent Address
When setting up a business in the US, you need to have both a physical mailing address and a registered agent address.
A registered agent is an individual or entity that is appointed to receive service of process for an LLC or corporation. Registered agents must be available at their registered office during normal business hours (i.e., 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., Monday through Friday), and their registered office address must be a physical address located in the business’s state of operation.
In comparison, your virtual address is used for accepting incoming mail, and for establishing your business presence (e.g., online business citations, Google Map location, etc.).
Note: Some registered agent services also offer virtual address services.
For more information, see our Registered Agents vs. Virtual Offices, Virtual Business Addresses, and Virtual Mailing Services guide.
Registered Agent Services
A registered agent service provides a number of important functions such as handling legal notices, maintaining corporate records, and accepting legal documents on behalf of the company. Registered agent services typically have agents located throughout the country, making it possible to set up a business in any state regardless of where you reside.
Registered agent services typically charge a yearly fee, but many offer at least one year of free services as part of an LLC formation package.
In addition to providing a registered agent address, many registered agent services offer virtual address services. This means you can set up a virtual address and use the same registered agent service.
To register your business with a registered agent service, you'll need to provide them with the following information:
- Name of the business
- Physical address where the business will operate
- Name and email address of the person responsible for managing the business
- Type of business (e.g., LLC, partnership, corporation, etc.)
- State where the business is incorporated
Once you're done, you'll need to wait until the registration process is complete — this could take anywhere from a few days to several weeks, depending on your state.
Recommended: Read our review of the best registered agent services in 2023 to find the best service for your business.
Virtual Address vs. Private Mailbox
A virtual address and private mailbox (PMB) work in much the same way. They serve as a physical address to a business without a physical location and are great for ecommerce businesses and home-based businesses operating as limited liability companies (LLCs) or corporations.
The main difference between a virtual address and a private mailbox is that a business owner must pick up their mail from a private mailbox. With a virtual address, the provider scans the mail, making it available in a digital format so that the business owner doesn’t have to go in person to pick up their mail.
Virtual Address vs. US Mailing Address
As the name suggests, a US mailing address is an address that can receive postal mail. This can be the same as your business’s physical address, or it can be a PO box, PMB, or virtual address.
A virtual address acts as a physical US mailing address. Setting up a virtual address bypasses some US mailing address requirements.
US Mailing Address Requirements for LLCs
The following are requirements for a valid US business mailing address for an LLC:
- It needs to be a physical address, not a PO box.
- The address cannot be vacant or uninhabited.
If you have a virtual address, you need not worry about these requirements.
Frequently Asked Questions
Do you need a physical address for your business?
You need a physical address for your business when registering as a domestic entity (LLC or Corp) to avoid piercing the corporate veil. If your business does not have a physical address in the state you are planning to register your business, you can use a virtual address to register your business. A virtual address has a physical address where mail is received by the virtual address service provider. The provider will scan your mail so it is viewable online from anywhere, thus why it is called a virtual address.
Can a virtual office be used as a registered address?
A virtual office can typically be used as a registered address. However, there are some states where this isn't allowed. Check with your local state agency before proceeding.
What is the difference between a virtual address and a registered agent?
A virtual address is a mailbox service provided by a third-party vendor. It provides a way for people to reach out to your business without having to know your physical address.
In contrast, a registered agent is someone who accepts legal documents on behalf of your business. In some cases, they are located at your business's physical address.
How do I get an LLC virtual address for free?
No, there are no free virtual addresses for LLCs. You must pay for a monthly or annual subscription. However, depending on your package and the company you choose, you may be entitled to certain free benefits. Check with your virtual address provider to inquire about the services they offer.
How can I get a DUNS number for my LLC without a physical address?
To get a DUNS number for your LLC, you’ll need a physical business address. The best workaround to having a physical address for your business is to use a virtual address service that will provide you with a physical address for your business.
How do I get a virtual US business address for my Shopify store?
You can get a virtual US business address for your Shopify store the same way you can for any business. You'll sign up with a virtual address service and use this address for your Shopify store.
We recommend that you consider setting up your Shopify store as an LLC and having a virtual address to help you with registering your business.
What is a registered agent service?
A registered agent service is an individual or company that has been designated to receive legal notices, process documents, and other official communications on behalf of another person. In most states, the registered agent must be authorized by law to accept the service of legal papers.