A California Agent for Service of Process provides various services, including accepting legal documents and correspondence from the California Secretary of State (SOS).

Your business must have a Registered Agent in California at all times. You'll appoint one when you first form your LLC. You can also replace your existing agent at a later time, provided there is no period during which your business is without an Agent for Service of Process.

California Agent for Service of Process Requirements

  • Every LLC, whether foreign or domestic, must have an Agent for Service of Process with a registered office within the State of California at all times.
  • The Registered Agent can be a domestic or foreign (licensed to transact business in the state) artificial legal entity (corporation, LLC, LP or LLP) or a natural person.
  • If the Registered Agent is a company, they must be authorized to conduct business in California.
  • If the Agent for Service of Process is a person, they must live in California.
  • The Registered Agent must be available in person to sign for any correspondence during regular business hours.
  • The Agent for Service of Process must be located in the State of California at a street address (a P.O. Box is not acceptable).

The address for your Registered Agent in California does not need to be the same as your business address. In fact, you can use a California virtual mailbox for your business address.

Important: A virtual mailbox cannot replace an Agent for Service of Process. They perform two separate functions and per state law, you are required to have a Registered Agent.

What a Registered Agent in California Does

The primary function of an Agent for Service of Process is to accept official correspondence and documentation.

This includes:

  • State and federal government correspondence and notices
  • Service of process notices (e.g., if your LLC is sued or required to appear in court)
  • Correspondence from the California SOS
  • Tax forms and requests to complete permits, company filings and reports

Having a Registered Agent also allows you to prove to the state that your business exists.

Incfile Provides Free Registered Agent Service for the First Year

Incfile can act as the Registered Agent in California for any LLC formed in the state. Even better, if you form your CA LLC through Incfile, your Registered Agent service is completely free for the first year and only $119 a year after that.

Incfile is legally permitted to act as your California Agent for Service of Process because we are authorized to conduct business in the state.

Here’s what our Registered Agent services include:

  • A digital dashboard where you can access, store and retrieve any information we’ve received for your business 
  • An always-available California Agent for Service of Process who can receive correspondence, documents and legal proceedings on your LLC's behalf
  • Email notification whenever we receive documents for your business
  • Automatic forwarding of all legal correspondence, documentation and information directly to you

Appointing a Registered Agent in California

When you're starting an LLC in California, you must appoint an Agent for Service of Process at that time. You can change the agent at any time after that. 

Appoint a Registered Agent When You Create Your LLC

Your business needs to have an agent as soon as it’s formed. You can achieve this through one of the following methods.

1
File Articles of Organization with the California SOS

When you create your business, you must include Agent for Service of Process details in your Articles of Organization.

2
Form Through Incfile and Get a Free California Agent

If you form your business through us, you’ll get our Registered Agent service free for one year. We’ll use the information you provide to complete and file your Articles of Organization for you.

Assign a New RegisteredAgent After Formation

You can also assign someone else to be your California Agent for Service of Process after you’ve formed your LLC. There are a couple of ways to do this.

1
Choose a New Registered Agent Service and File a Form with the California SOS

California doesn't have a specific form for this purpose. Once you’ve chosen a new Registered Agent, you can make the change in a Statement of Information and file it online. There is no fee to do this, provided your regular Statement of Information filing requirements have been met.

2
Sign Up for Incfile’s Registered Agent Service and We’ll File the Change on Your Behalf

When you use our Registered Agent service, we take care of all the paperwork for you. We’ll collect the pertinent information about your business, complete the Statement of Information and submit it to the California SOS on your behalf. We’ll notify you when we officially become your Agent for Service of Process.

Search for a Registered Agent in California

In some situations, you might want to know the name of the Registered Agent that represents another CA LLC. You'll find this information in the state's business database.

If you're unable to find the information you need, contact the California SOS directly to request it.

What Happens If You Don’t Appoint a Registered Agent in California?

If you don’t assign or provide details of an Agent for Service of Process to the Secretary of State, your business may suffer certain consequences, including but not limited to:

  • Getting sued or served and not knowing about it. You could lose to a default judgment in your absence if your LLC is sued and you don’t respond.
  • Falling out of good standing with the California SOS. The state may revoke your right to do business if you don’t respond to certain correspondence (such as a request for your annual report).
  • Losing your status as an LLC in the state. A Registered Agent is evidence to the state that your business exists. Without it, you could lose your business entity protections and your LLC may be dissolved.

Acting as Your Own Registered Agent

You can be the Agent for Service of Process for your California LLC if you have a business office in the state. There can be some drawbacks to this approach:

  • The Registered Agent must have a physical street address in California. If you’re forming an LLC outside the state, you’ll need to use an in-state Registered Agent.
  • Someone must always be available during business hours at the California address to sign for important documents.
  • The Registered Agent’s name and address are part of the public record and available through the California SOS website. If you prefer to keep your name and address private, you should use an Agent for Service of Process service.
  • If you change your business address or move out of state, you need to file additional documentation with the Secretary of State for the new address. This won't be necessary if you use a Registered Agent service, making a move or address change much simpler.

Other Useful Resources

FAQs About Registered Agents in California

Do I Need to Appoint a California Registered Agent?

Yes. All business entities are required to have a Registered Agent. This is mandated by the California SOS. You'll find more information above.

When Must I Assign a California Agent for Service of Process?

You must assign a Registered Agent when you form your California business with the Secretary of State. You can change your agent afterward by updating the information in your annual statement of information. If you form your business through Incfile, we’ll file all the necessary forms on your behalf. You'll find more information above.

Can I Be My Own Registered Agent in California?

Yes, but we don’t recommend it for the reasons listed above.

Does the Registered Agent for My California-Based LLC Need to Have an Address in California?

Yes. And if you use a company as your Registered Agent, that company must be legally able to conduct business in the state. You'll find more information above.

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