How to Register a DBA in Virginia (Step-by-Step Guide)

Avatar photo
by Team
Last updated: June 13th, 2024
We might receive compensation from the companies whose products we review. We are independently owned and the opinions here are our own.

Starting a new business can take time and effort. You have to deal with lots of paperwork and follow state laws. This can be overwhelming for small businesses lacking a dedicated admin team. Choosing a name for your business is very important and can affect your success. This article will discuss a DBA (Doing Business As). We’ll explain what a DBA means, the advantages and disadvantages of one, and give you a guide on how to apply for one in Virginia.

Jump to

What is a DBA?

DBA is an acronym for “doing business as,” which refers to companies or individuals who operate under a name that differs from their legal name. It is often called a “fictitious business name,” “assumed name,” or a “trade name.”

Registering for a DBA is a solution for companies that want a more marketable trade name. It allows a business to market itself under a different name while still being legally responsible under its legal name. 

For instance, if John Smith is a small business owner offering financial services, he can register a DBA name, “Financial Services by John,” to market his products and services instead of using his own name.

The process for registering a DBA varies by state, but the protocol usually involves the following:

  1. Choosing a unique business name
  2. Confirming its availability
  3. Filing the proper DBA forms with the relevant government agency, such as the Secretary of State or the county clerk’s office
  4. Paying the DBA filing fees.

Virginia DBA name registration

Choose your name

The first step is to choose a name for your business. Staying compliant with Virginia state law when considering your name is important. The Virginia State Corporation Commission states, “Fictitious names, unlike business entity names, don’t have to be unique, nor do they have any wording restrictions.”

Virginia does not require names to be unique, but choosing a unique name is a good idea as it will make it easier for you to market your business.

Check name availability

Although business names don’t have to be unique, we still recommend choosing a name that isn’t in use. To see names already in use, go to the State Corporation Commission Clerk’s Information System and conduct a business entity search.

Once you have checked that the name is available, we recommend buying the web domain. Once you have purchased the domain, you prevent others from being able to buy that address. Even if you are still getting ready to launch your business site, owning the domain is a good move, and websites are fantastic marketing tools.

Register your name

  • You can register your assumed or fictitious name in Virginia with the State Corporation Commission.
  • You can either file online or complete the PDF.
  • There are two PDFs; one for corporations, LLCs, LPs, and general partnerships and one for sole proprietors.
  • The form for corporations, LLCs, LPs, and general partnerships will ask for the following:
    • The name of the entity conducting business under the DBA
    • The new assumed or fictitious name that is being registered
    • The type of business
    • Where the entity was formed
    • The entity’s SCC ID number or address
  • The form for sole proprietors will ask for the following:
    • The name of the individual
    • The new assumed or fictitious name
    • The address of the individual’s office or residence

If you are filing by mail, the address is:

State Corporation Commission
Clerk’s Office
P.O. Box 1197
Richmond, VA 23218-1197

Pay your filing fees

For all business types, the filing fee is $10.

If you are filing online, you can pay by credit card. If you mail in your forms, include a check, do not send cash.

Renew, amend, or withdraw your DBA

  • Your Virginia DBA does not expire, so renewing is unnecessary.
  • You must file a new registration form if you want to change your details or your new name.
  • If you wish to withdraw your name, complete the Certificate of Release of Assumed or Fictitious Name form. You can file the form online as well. The cost to release your name is $10.
    • If you are filing online, you can pay by credit card. If you mail your forms, include a check, do not send cash.

Obtain an EIN

Business owners need an Employer Identification Number (EIN) from the IRS to identify their business entity for tax purposes.

  • It’s important to understand that having a DBA doesn’t create a separate legal entity.
  • If the business is a sole proprietorship without employees, the owner can use their Social Security number as their tax ID instead of getting an EIN.
  • However, if the DBA hires employees or wants to establish a separate business bank account, they must obtain an EIN.

Open a business bank account

Once you have your new DBA and EIN, it’s recommended that you open a dedicated business bank account.

This provides several benefits, including separating personal assets from business expenses and making transactions like check and credit card payments more efficient.

Useful links

Advantages and disadvantages of a DBA

Choosing to register a DBA offers a range of benefits to business owners:

  • Customizable name: A DBA can be altered more quickly than a legal business name, allowing business owners to change their name according to their evolving products and services or market conditions. It also allows multiple DBA names to target different products and markets, increasing the scope and customer base.
  • Brand recognition: A well-crafted DBA name is often more descriptive and memorable than a legal name. It helps in brand recognition, business promotion, and marketing and advertising the products or services easier. Registering a DBA name safeguards the brand name by preventing others from using it, establishing brand loyalty among customers.
  • Cost-effective: DBA registration is usually less expensive than other business structures like Limited Liability Companies (LLCs). It is a more affordable option for small businesses and entrepreneurs that want to create a unique identity without spending too much money.

However, there are a few downsides to registering a DBA:

  • Personal liability: DBAs do not provide personal liability or legal protection, meaning that the business owner is personally responsible for all debts, obligations, and lawsuits related to the business.

Who needs a DBA?

  • Sole proprietorships: Individuals who own and operate their business without creating a separate legal entity.
  • Partnerships: Joint ventures between two or more individuals who want to operate under a different name than the partners’ names.
  • Corporations and LLCs: Business entities that want to use a name different from their legal name or diversify business under multiple names.

Why or why wouldn’t you need a DBA?

You would need a DBA if:

  • You intend to operate your business under a name other than your or your company’s legal name.
  • You want a trading name that is easier to market, remember, or describe your products or services.
  • You are a sole proprietor, partnership, corporation, or LLC and want to conduct business under multiple names.
  • You want to test a new product or market without changing your legal name.

You may not need a DBA if:

  • You are operating your business under your personal or your company’s name.
  • You are a single-owner LLC that conducts business under your name or your LLCs.


Do I need to advertise my DBA in a local newspaper?

Some states mandate that you must advertise your new business name in a local newspaper, this isn’t the case in Virginia, but there are many benefits to advertising your new name.

How long does it take to process my DBA?

It can take between 2-5 business days to process your DBA. It is quicker to file online than to mail your forms in.

I am in a hurry. Can I speed up the process?

If you file online, you can opt for an expedited service. You can pay $200 for same-day processing or $50 to $100 for next-day processing. It is not possible to expedite paper submissions.

Does my DBA grant me a business license?

No, a DBA is not the equivalent of a business license.

Can others file under the same name?

There is no authority on who has the right to use fictitious names. Names are not unique, and if you choose a name, it does not protect it from others. We recommend filing a trademark or forming a formal business if you want to protect your name.

Find out how to register a DBA in your state

Click below to get started