How to Get Licenses and Permits for Your Business: A Guide

How to Get Licenses and Permits for Your Business

A common misconception is that if the business is registered, you can start selling goods and services immediately. However, this is not the case in the real-world business landscape.

You also need to obtain licenses and permits for the products/services you’re planning to sell before you start your operations.

Most new entrepreneurs don’t know how to get licenses and permits for their business. That’s why we’ve created this guide to help you understand how to get the right licenses and permits for your business.

How to Get Licenses and Permits for Your Business

Different types of businesses require different licenses and permits. The type and number of licenses and permits your business needs will largely depend on the industry you operate in.

The number of permits required for a specific business may also vary from state to state.

The only common link between all types of business operating in the US is that they all need to apply for an EIN (Employer Identification Number). That is required for tax purposes.

In this section, we’ve compiled a general list of licenses and permits that businesses would require at federal and state levels. Find out the relevant ones specific to your business and then check your state’s guidelines for the various permits you will need.

Let’s get started.

How to Get Federal Licenses and Permits

If the area your business operates in is regulated by a federal agency, you will have to get licenses and permits from them. Check for the below-mentioned business activities and see if they apply to your business.

The fees and document requirements will vary by agency, so please check the details via the given links.


Business area: transporting animals or their products, biotechnology, plants, or biologics across the state line.

Get licenses and permits for your business from the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

Alcoholic Beverages

Business area: manufacturing, wholesale, retail, or import of alcoholic beverages.

Get licenses and permits for your business from the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau.

Firearms, Ammunition, and Explosives

Business area: manufacturing, dealing, or importing of firearms, ammunition, and explosives.

Get licenses and permits for your business from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives.


Business area: operating aircraft or maintenance, goods or people transportation via air.

Get licenses and permits for your business from the Federal Aviation Administration.

Commercial Fisheries

Business area: commercial fishing of any kind.

Get licenses and permits for your business from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Fisheries Service.

Fish and Wildlife

Business area: import or export of wildlife and derivative products or engagement in any other wildlife related activities.

Get licenses and permits from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

Mining and Drilling

Business area: drilling for oil, natural gas, or other minerals on federal lands.

Get licenses and permits from the Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement.

Maritime Transportation

Business area: facilitating shipment by cargo via sea or providing ocean transportation.

Get licenses and permits for your business from the Federal Maritime Commission.

Nuclear energy

Business area: producing commercial nuclear energy, facility for a fuel cycle, involvement in distribution and disposal of nuclear materials.

Get licenses and permits for your business from the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission.

Radio and Television Broadcasting

Business area: broadcasting information via radio, wire, satellite, television, or cable.


Licenses and permits can be obtained from the Federal Communications Commission.

Transportation and Logistics

Business area: operating oversized or heavy vehicles.

Licenses and permits are issued by the U.S. Department of Transportation.

How to Get State Licenses and Permits

The licenses and permits required from the state, county, or city, depend on the location of the business and the domain.

For every state, the norms and guidelines differ, so you need to check with the local authorities to obtain the required licenses and permits.

Here are some common licenses and permits businesses need to obtain from the state.

General Business License

A license issued by the city or county in which the business is located.

DBS or “Doing Business As” License or Permit

Get this if you are planning to run your business under a fictitious business name.

State Tax ID Number

State and local governments require businesses to obtain a state tax identification number.

Sales Tax Permit

Any business that sells goods (online or offline) needs to get this permit.

Zoning Permit

Sometimes, there are several zoning regulations that prohibit certain types of business activities. You need to check the zoning regulations and permits required for your state or county.

Home Occupation Permit

Businesses that operate via home, require home occupation permits.

Professional or Occupational Licenses

Certain types of businesses in certain states require getting special licenses for their profession. For example, certain US states may require licenses for child care businesses.

Health Permit

Businesses that prepare or handle food require a health permit.

The Fire Department Permit

Businesses that use flammable materials, involve assembling a large number of people, or are open to the public, require a permit and inspection by the local fire department.

Environmental Permits

Some businesses require special pollution control permits from the state and local governments.

Special State Licenses

Several states require certain businesses, like restaurants or bars, to get special licenses. Check with your local authorities to find out if your business needs any such licenses.

Wrapping it Up

A business needs to obtain numerous licenses and permits from the state and federal departments before it can start operations. Finding the list of relevant ones and learning how to get those licenses and permits is the real challenge.

When it comes to licenses and permits, there is no room for error. You can save thousands of dollars on fines if you obtain all the necessary licenses and permits before starting your business.


Brett ShapiroBrett Shapiro is a co-owner of GovDocFiling. He had an entrepreneurial spirit since he was young. He started GovDocFiling, a simple resource center that takes care of the mundane, yet critical, formation documentation for any new business entity.

Written by Enaa Mari

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