How Long Does it Take to Form an LLC in California? (Guide)

Delina Chantel Yasmeh
Published by Delina Chantel Yasmeh | Author
Last updated: March 31, 2024
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The Limited Liability Company (LLC) formation process is relatively fast and easy, thanks to the state's streamlined registration process.

Since I’m a seasoned mergers and acquisitions specialist and a Master's degree holder in tax law, I delved into the process of forming an LLC in California to provide you with accurate and up-to-date information.

After extensive research and consultations with business experts in the state, we aim to offer you a comprehensive guide on the timeline involved in establishing a business entity in California.

Quick Summary

  • It takes 3 to 5 business days to form an LLC in California, both online and by mail. 
  • The Secretary of State offers expedited service for online applications. You can avail of the same-day processing period for $750.
  • Between March 2021 and March 2022, California saw the establishment of 213,893 new businesses, with the processing time varying based on the document filing method.
  • In my experience, it’s better to file online and use the expedited service so your LLC may start operating sooner. 


What is The Fastest Way to Start an LLC in California?

Clock and laptop

The fastest way to start an LLC in California is through expedited service. You have the option to avail of a 24-hour processing, same-day turnaround, or 4-hour delivery service for additional fees.

California hosts, according to 2023 U.S. State Business Administration data, 4.1 million small businesses, accounting for 99.8% of all businesses in the state, showcasing its strong entrepreneurial culture.

To ensure a smooth and efficient process, it is advisable to follow the steps and comply with the requirements outlined by the Secretary of State.

LLC Processing Time in California

A man discussing to his colleague about California LLC approval timeline

The California approval process covers the review and processing by the California Secretary of State and any transit time. This is what determines the LLC approval time.

1. Expedited California LLC Processing Time Online (Same day processing + $750)

The state of California offers expedited service for online applications.

Here are the accelerated options offered by the California Secretary of State:

  • 4-hour delivery (Class A): Once the document has been precleared and approved, you may avail of the 4-hour expedited filing service that costs $500.
  • 24-hour filing service (Class C): This expedited filing option is only available online and charges a $350.00 filing fee. Online filing responses are guaranteed within 24 hours [1].
  • Same-day processing (Class B): This expedited filing option is only available online and charges a $750.00 filing fee. Responses to online filings are guaranteed by 4:00 p.m. the same day, provided the document is received online by 9:30 a.m.

When clients request expedited service, I advise them to choose which accelerated option suits their budget and timeline.

"While the specific duration to establish an LLC in California can vary, utilizing online services generally speeds up the process compared to traditional mail, highlighting the importance of digital filing systems in modern business practices."

- Jon Morgan, CEO, Co-Founder & Editor-in-Chief of Venture Smarter

2. California LLC Processing Time Online (3-5 business days)

The California LLC online filing process is easy and efficient, with approvals taking 3-5 business days.

I find it convenient that the documents could be downloaded as soon as they are approved, so there's no need to wait for an additional transit time from the Secretary of State.

3. Non-Expedited California LLC Processing Time By Mail (3-5 business days)

From what I learned, the actual processing time may take 3 to 5 business days. The procedure will be completed in 2–3 weeks, which includes mail time.

4. California LLC Processing Time In Person (5 business days)

You can drop off your LLC Articles of Organization at the Secretary of State’s regional office. This is only allowed during regular business hours at Sacramento and California Regional offices [2].

The application takes an average of 5 business days to be approved and is subject to an additional $15 counter-drop-off fee.

When I filed an application in person, the staff told me that dropped-off documents would receive priority processing over mail-in filings, except during state holidays.

Factors Influencing The Formation Timeline Of California LLCs

A person using a laptop with coworkers on the side

Several reasons can affect the formation timeline of California LLCS. These include the following:

  • Requirement issues: Failure to comply with state requirements and guidelines will prolong the LLC approval time. The documents must be complete and in order.
  • Time of the year: Because there are so many business filings towards the end of the fiscal and calendar years, the processing period for all requests takes longer. That’s why I advise clients to avoid filing during busy seasons [3].
  • Processing errors: Scheduled website maintenance, equipment malfunction, and network downtime will affect the processing time. 

Related Articles:

FAQs

Can a Registered Agent Expedite the Process of Forming an LLC in California?

A registered agent cannot expedite the process of forming an LLC in California since the Secretary of State determines the approval and processing times.

Where Can I Check the Status of My California LLC Formation During the Processing Period?

You can check the status of your California LLC formation during the processing period through the online business search portal.

References:

  1. https://www.sos.ca.gov/business-programs/business-entities/service-options
  2. https://www.sos.ca.gov/business-programs/business-entities/special-handling-services
  3. https://www.sos.ca.gov/business-programs/business-entities/processing-dates

About The Author

Author
Delina Chantel Yasmeh, J.D./Tax LL.M, specializes in Mergers and Acquisitions at Deloitte and PwC, managing billion-dollar transactions. Educated in Accountancy at California State University and holding advanced degrees from Loyola Law School, she is highly skilled in tax law. Delina also dedicates time to pro bono work for women and children.
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Growth & Transition Advisor
LJ Viveros has 40 years of experience in founding and scaling businesses, including a significant sale to Logitech. He has led Market Solutions LLC since 1999, focusing on strategic transitions for global brands. A graduate of Saint Mary’s College in Communications, LJ is also a distinguished Matsushita Executive alumnus.
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4 thoughts on “How Long Does it Take to Form an LLC in California? (Guide)

  1. Hello, I want to consult that, according to California’s Assembly Bill 85: A California LLC can now legally “avoid” the $800 Annual Franchise Tax (1st year). However, I already paid that fee last year. I am wondering how can I use that to deduct my second year’s annual fee? Thank you.

    1. According to California’s Assembly Bill 85, new LLCs can avoid the $800 Annual Franchise Tax for their first year. If you’ve already paid this fee last year, you cannot apply it as a deduction for the second year’s fee. Each year’s franchise tax is a separate and distinct obligation.

  2. It states in the 2022 Instructions for Form FTB 3522 as stated:

    “For taxable years beginning on or after January 1, 2021 and before January 1, 2024, an LLC that organizes, registers, or files with the Secretary of State to do business in CA is exempt from the annual LLC tax in its first taxable year.”

    So if I filed my company on July 4, 2022, does that mean I’m exempt from paying the $800 fee due the 15th of April?

    1. yes, based on the 2022 instructions for Form FTB 3522, since your LLC was filed on July 4, 2022, it qualifies for the exemption from the annual $800 LLC tax for its first taxable year. Therefore, you should be exempt from paying this fee by April 15 following the year of your LLC’s registration.

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