Delaware LLC Foreign Qualification

A comprehensive walkthrough on the process of Foreign Qualification for Delaware LLCs.

Updated on
Jan 24, 2024
min read
Starting a Company
Jump to sections
Share this article

What are the potential consequences of failing to register my business in Delaware before operating in the state?

Foreign qualification is essentially seeking permission to operate your business in Delaware. The idea that "it's easier to ask for forgiveness than permission" doesn't apply here. Failing to complete foreign qualification before commencing business in Delaware can lead to more significant expenses than simply registering initially. If you skip foreign qualification, your business will:

  • Incur an annual fee of $200 to the Secretary of State for each year (or part of a year) it has operated in Delaware without proper registration.
  • Be obligated to pay all the fees and LLC taxes it would have incurred (including late fees) if it had been correctly registered from the start.
  • Be unable to pursue any legal actions or lawsuits in Delaware courts until all fees and penalties for failure to register have been settled.
  • Risk being prohibited from conducting business in Delaware by the attorney general.

While these penalties can disrupt your business operations, they won't invalidate existing contracts or prevent you from defending actions or lawsuits in Delaware courts. For a more detailed description of these penalties, refer to the Delaware LLC Act, Sec. 18-907.

What Constitutes "Doing Business" in Delaware?

We've clarified the importance of foreign qualification, but what exactly does it mean to "do business" in Delaware? Although the state's LLC Act provides few specific examples, it defines "doing business" as "the course or practice of carrying on any business activities in the State of Delaware, including, without limiting the generality of the foregoing, the solicitation of business or orders in the State of Delaware." In most states, you are considered to be "doing business" and required to complete foreign qualification if:

  • Your LLC has a physical presence in the state, such as stores, offices, warehouses, etc.
  • Your LLC employs salespersons or representatives conducting business in Delaware on its behalf.

Additionally, you should be aware of Delaware's Franchise Tax, which all LLCs operating in the state must pay, amounting to an annual fee of $300 for the privilege of doing business there. Foreign qualification serves as notification to the Secretary of State that you intend to pay this tax. Failure to do so may result in owing the tax along with late fees later on. It's crucial to stay informed about your LLC's tax requirements to avoid unpleasant surprises.

If you are uncertain about whether you need to file for foreign qualification in Delaware, it is advisable to seek legal counsel.

Possible Exemptions from Foreign Qualification in Delaware

Foreign qualification is not an absolute requirement for all LLCs engaged in any activity in Delaware. Some actions do not classify as "doing business" and, therefore, do not necessitate foreign qualification. A few examples include:

  • Maintaining, defending, or settling legal actions or proceedings in Delaware courts.
  • Holding LLC member and/or manager meetings or conducting other internal affairs dealings in the state.
  • Maintaining a bank account.
  • Selling products or services through independent contractors.
  • Soliciting or receiving orders outside the state before they become contracts.
  • Securing and collecting specific debts.
  • Engaging in interstate commerce.
  • Conducting a single isolated transaction that is not part of a series of similar actions.
  • Operating as an insurance company.

If your LLC's activities align with these exemptions, you likely won't need to complete foreign qualification. For a comprehensive list of exemptions, consult the Delaware LLC Act, Sec. 18-912. If you have any doubts or questions regarding the need for foreign qualification, seeking legal advice is a prudent step.

How to Complete Foreign Qualification for Your LLC in Delaware

Foreign qualification in Delaware is a straightforward process when you know where to find and submit the necessary forms. If you or your legal counsel have decided to pursue foreign qualification for your LLC in Delaware, follow these steps:

  1. Complete and submit a "Certificate of Registration of Foreign LLC Company." The first and second pages of the form contain detailed instructions for completion. To expedite the process, gather the following information beforehand:
  2. Your LLC name (or a fictitious name if the original name is unavailable in Delaware).
  3. The state where you formed your LLC and its formation date.
  4. Your registered office address in Delaware.
  5. The name of your Delaware registered agent.
  6. The date you intend to commence business activities in Delaware.
  7. Along with the completed form, include the following:
  8. A Certificate of Good Standing from your LLC's home state, dated within six months.
  9. A Filing Cover Memo to facilitate speedy processing.
  10. A $200 fee, payable by check to "Delaware Secretary of State."
  11. Submit the documents by mail to:
  12. Delaware Division of Corporations401 Federal Street – Suite 4Dover, DE 19901
  13. Or fax them to (302) 739-3812.

Processing times at the Delaware Secretary of State's office typically take 2-3 weeks, although recent changes on their website make turnaround times less specific. Nonetheless, expedited processing options are available at varying costs:

  • One-Hour: $1,000
  • Two-Hour: $500
  • Same-Day: $100
  • 24-Hour: $50

After submitting your form and fees, your LLC will be on its way to achieving foreign qualification, marking a new chapter in your business's journey.

Remember Name Requirements:

Among the numerous responsibilities, including gathering documents and paying fees, it's essential not to overlook naming requirements. In Delaware, your LLC name must:

  • Include the words "Limited Liability Company" or an abbreviation like LLC or L.L.C.
  • Include a translation (only on the application) if the name uses words from a foreign language.
  • Avoid references to the word "bank" or any terms indicating a banking affiliation without approval from the Delaware Banking Commission.
  • Exclude words that the Secretary of State deems lewd, vulgar, or racist.
  • Be distinct and available in the Delaware Secretary of State records (perform a Delaware LLC name search to confirm availability).
  • You also have the option to reserve your Delaware business name if you're not yet ready to complete foreign qualification for your LLC.

Important Note: To save time and simplify the foreign qualification process, many reputable LLC services can handle this paperwork for you.

Disclaimer: The content on this page is for informational purposes only and does not constitute legal, tax, or accounting advice. Seek the counsel of a licensed professional for specific questions related to these topics.

Launch Your Business with Confidence

We're here for you every step of the journey. From company formation to compliance, we've got your back. Let’s get it right, from the start.

Frequently Asked Questions

Have other questions? Contact us now

Do I Need to File an Annual Report for My Foreign LLC in Delaware?
a plus icon

No, Delaware does not mandate annual reports for LLCs, whether foreign or domestic. However, as mentioned earlier, you must pay the franchise tax annually to remain compliant with state law. If you wish to learn more on Annual Report Filing, you may refer to this page.

How Long Does Delaware Take to Process Foreign Qualification?
a plus icon

Typically, you can expect a waiting period of approximately 2-3 weeks for most Delaware foreign qualifications. However, recent changes on the state's website have made turnaround times less specific.

When Is the Best Time to Foreign Qualify an LLC?
a plus icon

We recommend foreign qualifying your LLC before initiating business activities in a new state. Failure to do so could expose your business to a wide range of fines and penalties for operating an LLC without permission in that jurisdiction.

Try the Stellar Company Assistant Now
Click here
Stellar Company Assistant (AI)
Stellar helps business owner to manage corporate services such as incorporation, tax filing and more.