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 Arkansas and you are looking to open a second location in Missouri, you may need to complete a foreign qualification in Missouri 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 Missouri. 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 Missouri yields consequences that are far costlier than registering in the first place.
If you fail to foreign qualify, your business will not be allowed to commence or maintain a lawsuit in Missouri courts. In addition, your LLC will be subject to a fine of up to $1,000 and the Attorney General may stop you from doing business in the state.
Even so, transacting business in the state without authorization won’t completely inhibit your activities there. For example, it won’t invalidate your existing contracts or prevent you from defending a lawsuit.
See what the Missouri LLC Act says about it in Section 347.163.
We’ve established why you shouldn’t do business without a foreign qualification. But what exactly does it mean to “do business” in Missouri? The S.O.S. website says “whether an entity is doing business in the state is determined on a case-by-case basis,” and advises LLCs to get legal assistance to determine what is and isn’t “doing business.” In most states, however, you are considered to be “doing business” and required to foreign qualify if:
Again, if you’re unsure whether or not you need to file for a foreign qualification in Missouri, it’s best to seek legal counsel.
The foreign qualification, however, isn’t a hard and fast rule for all LLCs performing any kind of action in Missouri. Certain actions do not qualify as “doing business” and therefore don’t require a foreign qualification. Some examples are:
If your only business activities in Missouri consist of items on this list, you’re likely exempt from foreign qualifying. But considering the potential penalties, it might be worth speaking with an attorney anyway to be absolutely sure.
Foreign qualification in Missouri 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 Missouri, the cheapest and quickest method is to file online through the Secretary of State website. Here’s how:
Or, if you prefer, you can file via postal mail. Download and complete the “Application for Registration of a Foreign LLC.” Send your finished form and a check (made out to “Secretary of State”) for $105 to:
Secretary of State, Corporations Division
P.O. Box 778
Jefferson City, Missouri 65102
They will also accept hand-delivered forms, so if you’re local to Jefferson City, drop them off at:
600 W. Main St., Rm. 322
Jefferson City, Missouri 65102
Along with your completed form – whether online or on paper – you will need to submit a valid Certificate of Good Standing from the state where your LLC was formed. It must not be more than 60 days old.
Processing times vary depending on how you file. Online forms are processed in 24 hours, mailed ones in 4-7 business days, and in-person submissions while you wait.
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.
New state, new business name rules. Be sure to check your name’s compliance with Missouri state law before submitting your application. Your LLC name must:
You can also reserve your Missouri business name if you’re not quite ready to foreign qualify your LLC.
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 24 hours for the state to process an online application, compared to 4-7 business days for mailed submissions. If you submit your documents in person, the Missouri Secretary of State’s office will usually process them as you wait.
Chances are, you’ll require at least one license or permit to operate your LLC in compliance with Missouri state law. For more information about business licenses and more in this state, check out the Missouri Division of Professional Registration and the Secretary of State’s Organizations and Agencies list.
No. Whether you operate a domestic or foreign LLC in this state, there is no requirement for a Missouri LLC Annual Report.
The overall costs of operating a Missouri 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 Missouri 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 Missouri registered agent.
The service then files your Application for Registration with the state to qualify your LLC to do business in Missouri.
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.
Missouri Business Resources
Foreign Qualification by State
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