Registered Agents vs. Virtual Offices, Virtual Business Addresses, and Virtual Mailing Services

Registered agents, virtual offices, virtual business addresses, and virtual mailboxes serve different purposes. Namely:

  • A registered agent service receives service of process and other official government documents.
  • A virtual office is physical office space that your company uses but is managed by a third party.
  • A virtual business address is a physical office building that can officially act as your company’s business address without your company needing to actually use the space.
  • A virtual mailing service or virtual mailbox is similar to a P.O. box but intended for business rather than personal use.

In this guide, we explain more about what these services can do for your company.


What Is a Registered Agent?

A registered agent is an individual or business entity that accepts tax and legal documents such as service of process on behalf of your business. A registered agent can also be called a resident agent, statutory agent, or agent for service of process.

Most states require businesses to have a registered agent. This can be yourself, a friend or colleague who meets the state's criteria, or a professional service.

Registered agent services offer a number of benefits. To explore your options, check out our Best Registered Agent Services review.

For more on registered agents, see our guides for What Does a Registered Agent Do? and Should I Use a Registered Agent Service?

Registered Agent Services Are Not Virtual Offices

Registered agent services are not the same as virtual offices and serve different purposes.

Registered agent services are meant to receive official government documents such as tax forms and service of process. They also can send compliance reminders and file documents like annual reports.

Registered agent services also promptly forward notices and documents to you so you can take timely action. In addition, they help keep your business current with state requirements by sending filing reminders.

Finally, a registered agent service keeps copies of important business documents in case the originals are destroyed or stolen.

What Is a Virtual Office?

A virtual office is a physical office that your company uses but that is managed by another entity. Among other things, it can include a live receptionist, mail receipt and forwarding services, and a listing in a lobby directory.

Virtual offices provide a place to meet clients or partners and can look more professional than listing your home address as your business address.

What Is a Virtual Business Address?

A virtual business address is a physical address you can use as your official company address without having to be there in person.

In addition to processing mail like a virtual mailing service (see below), you can use a virtual business address to register with the state when you form your company. You can also use it to file taxes.

Finally, like a virtual office, a virtual business address provides a sense of legitimacy for your company because it is a physical space found on a map. It also provides privacy if you have a home-based business because you can use it instead of your home address.

What Is a Virtual Mailing Service?

A virtual mailing service, sometimes called a virtual mailbox, can receive personal or business mail. Although it isn’t meant to act as your company’s official business address, a virtual mailbox can digitize your mail or forward mail or packages to you. Once your mail is digitized, you can read it from anywhere in the world where you have an internet connection.

Registered Agent and Virtual Mailing Service Recommendations

If you’re looking for a registered agent service, read our review of the Best Registered Agent Services of 2021. They include:

  1. ZenBusiness ($99/year) is the best registered agent service for small business because of its affordability and high-quality features.
  2. Northwest ($125/year) is one of our honorable mentions because of its affordability and quick, easy checkout process.
  3. Incfile ($119/year) is one of our honorable mentions because of the free premium services available in its entry-level packages.
  4. Rocket Lawyer ($149.99/year) is best if you need ongoing legal services because in addition to a full year of registered agent service, they offer access to legal documents, support from lawyers, and more.
  5. LegalZoom ($299/year) is the most well-known service because of how long they have been in business and how many customers they’ve had.

When it comes to virtual mailing services, Earth Class Mail (starting at $69/month) offers an excellent virtual office and mail service to help you establish a physical US Mailing address with digital mail forwarding.

Frequently Asked Questions

Can a virtual office be used as a registered agent?

A virtual office should not be used as a registered agent because they serve different purposes. A registered agent is meant to receive official government documents like service of process, while a virtual office is an actual office space that is managed by a third party and is meant to receive regular mail (among other things).

Can I use a registered agent address as my business address?

Generally speaking, no. A registered agent is only required to receive official government documents that pertain to your business. It is not meant to receive regular mail or serve as your business address. An exception would be if you serve as your own registered agent; in that case, your business address and registered agent address would be the same.

Can I use a virtual business address as my business address?

Yes, you can use a virtual business address as your official business address when your company is formed. You can also use it to file taxes.

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