Depending on your line of work, location, and certain government rules, you may need to attain federal, state, and/or local permits and licenses to operate your business. In this article, we’ll break down some of these requirements and direct you to agencies that can help you with your specific permit and licensure needs.
Federal small business permits and licenses
Business owners who engage in activities regulated by a federal agency will need to attain a federal permit or license. If you plan to take part in any of the following activities, be sure to contact the agency that’s referenced to learn about permit or license requirements:
Agricultural import or transport
Contact: U.S. Department of Agriculture
Alcohol production, wholesale, import, or sale
Aviation operations, transport, or maintenance
Contact: Federal Aviation Administration
Firearms, ammunition, or explosives production, sale, or import
Fish and wildlife activities, which may include the import or export of wildlife or wildlife products
Contact: U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
Maritime transport or the facilitation of cargo transport by sea
Contact: Federal Maritime Commission
Mining and drilling for natural gas, oil, or mineral resources on federal lands
Nuclear energy production, distribution, or disposal or operations as a fuel cycle facility
Contact: U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission
Radio and television broadcasting, which may also include wire or satellite broadcasts
Contact: Federal Communications Commission
Federal small business licenses may include a fee. Be sure to inquire about the fee when asking for a federal license application.
State and local small business permits and licenses
States regulate other activities, including transportation and logistics, construction, auctions, farming, trade work, salon services, pet care, food services, dry cleaning, and retail. To learn about the specific permit or license requirements in your state, visit your state’s licensing body’s website. You can find a link to your state's site below:
Fees for small business licenses will vary by state. Contact your state’s licensing body to learn more.
Next, contact your city or county officials to learn about the other requirements your business—and the building it’s housed within—must meet. Your local zoning boards and commerce boards should walk you through zoning concerns, building and signage permit needs, and other local requirements.
Need help locating your local zoning board? Start by calling your local town hall. You can find the contact information for your town hall by visiting Townhallproject.com.
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