Your business is growing, and you’re planning an expansion to other states. It’s a good problem to have!
But it’s not quite as simple as choosing another location. Because each state has different rules and requirements for business operations, you may need a “foreign qualification” in each state where you plan to do business.
It’s a common misconception that foreign qualification is only for businesses operating outside the U.S. But in this case, “foreign” refers to any business operating in a state that isn’t the state where the LLC was originally formed.
For example, if your LLC is registered in Texas and you are looking to open a second location in Louisiana, you may need to complete a foreign qualification in Louisiana before you can expand there.
Important Note: If you’d like to save time and have the foreign qualification paperwork taken care of for you, many of the best LLC services can handle this task for you.
Foreign qualifying is essentially asking permission to do business in the state of Louisiana. And the notion that “it’s easier to ask forgiveness than permission” doesn’t apply here. Failing to foreign qualify before starting a business in Louisiana yields consequences that are far costlier than registering in the first place. If you fail to foreign qualify, your business:
Those fees can really add up, especially the late fees, and going without any legal footing in the state can be dangerous. So, it’s best not to mess around and foreign qualify as soon as you begin transacting business in Louisiana.
If caught doing unauthorized business, you will still retain some of your rights within the state. Your contracts will still be valid, and you’ll still be allowed to defend an action or proceeding in Louisiana court.
Louisiana State Legislature RS 12:1354 has all the details if you need more information.
We’ve established why you shouldn’t do business without a foreign qualification. But what exactly does it mean to “do business” in Louisiana? The state’s laws are fairly quiet on the specifics. However, we know from other state and tax laws that you are considered to be “doing business” in most states and required to foreign qualify if:
Louisiana also has a franchise tax for corporations and other qualifying businesses. If your LLC is organized and taxed like a C corporation or S corporation, it will be subject to this and other taxes. By foreign qualifying, you’re also letting the state know so they can apply the necessary taxes. If you don’t end up paying these taxes, you’ll likely run into some pretty severe penalties down the road. Learn more about possible business taxes on the Louisiana Department of Revenue site. It’s important to always stay on top of your LLC’s taxation requirements to avoid any unwelcome surprises.
If you’re unsure whether or not you need to file for a foreign qualification in Louisiana, we suggest seeking legal counsel.
The foreign qualification, however, isn’t a hard and fast rule for all LLCs performing any kind of action in Louisiana. Certain actions do not qualify as “doing business” and therefore don’t require a foreign qualification. Some examples are:
Louisiana state law has more information on these exemptions (RS 12:302). After reviewing the full list, if you find your only Louisiana business activities present, congratulations! You’re likely exempt from foreign qualifying. However, considering the penalties involved, it’s best to seek legal counsel if you’re at all unsure.
Foreign qualification in Louisiana is simple if you know where to find and send your forms. If you or your legal counsel has decided to foreign qualify your LLC in Louisiana, you’ll need to file an “Application for Authority to Transact Business in Louisiana” either on paper or online.
The first step in any Louisiana LLC formation is applying for a name reservation. Check out our guide on how to reserve an LLC name in the state.
To finish the foreign qualification process as quickly as possible, you’re better off filing online. Take a digital stroll over to the geauxBIZ portal to get started. Once you sign in to your account, you’ll need to find the correct form. Fortunately, the site can help you out. This video walkthrough will give you the information you need to complete the form.
If you’d like to avoid the online system, trusty postal mail is also an option. Download and complete the “Application for Authority” form, then mail it to:
Secretary of State Commercial Division
P.O. Box 94125
Baton Rouge, LA 70804-9125
Live near Baton Rouge? You can drop it off in person instead. Just go to:
8585 Archives Ave.
Baton Rouge, Louisiana 70809
But don’t send the form by itself! Louisiana also requires a Certificate of Good Standing from the state where the LLC was formed. Contact your home state government to obtain one.
All filing methods cost a $150 fee. Be sure to include a check, made payable to the “Secretary of State,” with all mailed or hand-delivered forms. For online filings, you’ll be prompted to input your credit/debit card information as part of the online form.
After your form is in and your fee is paid, sit back, take a deep breath, and pat yourself on the back. Your LLC is on its way to foreign qualification, and you’re embarking on another chapter in the life of your business.
When applying for your required name reservation, remember to follow Louisiana’s LLC name guidelines. State law dictates that your LLC name must:
Find a more detailed list of requirements here.
We think you should foreign qualify your LLC before you begin conducting business in a new state. If you don’t, your business could be subject to a broad range of fines and penalties for operating an LLC in a jurisdiction where you don’t have permission to do so.
You’ll typically need to wait roughly 2-3 days for Louisiana to process an online foreign qualification, or 2-3 weeks for one submitted on a paper form. If you opt for walk-in service, you can pay an extra $50 to have it processed immediately or $30 to get 24-hour service.
Chances are, you’ll require at least one license or permit to operate your LLC in compliance with Louisiana state law. For more information about business licenses in this state, check out Louisiana’s convenient business licensing portal.
Yes. Whether you operate a domestic or foreign LLC in this state, you are required to file a Louisiana LLC annual report.
The overall costs of operating a Louisiana LLC can vary considerably based on the specifics of your business. However, we created a helpful guide to help you identify and plan for every expense your LLC will face in this state.
The answer to this question lies in your personal preferences, but we can give some general pointers. An attorney will cost the most by a mile, but also provides expertise you won’t find with the other options. The DIY route is free of charge but can require quite a bit of legwork and provides no peace of mind that the process is being completed correctly.
Using an LLC service means your business will be foreign qualified by professionals who know what they’re doing, while also costing significantly less than a lawyer. This “best of both worlds” attribute is what makes LLC services our preferred option.
Using an online LLC service removes much of the hassle from the foreign qualification process. With these services, all you need to do is provide them with the name, location, and industry your business operates in, along with some info about yourself and your Louisiana registered agent.
The service then registers your Application for Authority with the state to qualify your LLC to do business in Louisiana.
Disclaimer: The content on this page is for informational purposes only, and does not constitute legal, tax, or accounting advice. If you have specific questions about any of these topics, seek the counsel of a licensed professional.
Louisiana Business Resources
Foreign Qualification by State
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