North Dakota licensing and permitting

How to Apply for Business Licenses and Permits in North Dakota

Our business license report can help you determine what licenses and permits you need to start a business in North Dakota.

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There are many things you could consider when you start your business in North Dakota. Not only will you think about what type of business entity you can form, but you might also want to consider researching the types of North Dakota business permits your industry has to acquire before starting your business. 

Let’s take a look at what kinds of permits or licenses your business might need and how our Business License Report service can help you get it done easily.

What is a business license?

No matter what industry you operate in, there’s a chance you’ll have to apply for a permit at the local, state, or federal level. Also, it’s common to have to apply for more than one license or permit. 

The types of permits and licenses you need vary depending on your industry and the location in which you operate. Some businesses need a permit or a license to operate before doing anything. Other businesses might need to have a permit or two so they can perform a specific function of the business. 

Getting business permits and licenses is a necessity in a highly regulated business climate. You essentially have to ask the government for permission to open and run your business. Unfortunately, there’s no place you can go to research and discover every license or permit you need for your company. That means you need to search various resources to figure out which permits or licenses you need.

Running a business is tough. We are here to help you start your business quickly and easily. Not only can we help you form the entity you desire for your business, but we can help you keep your business state-compliant through our Worry-Free Compliance service and navigate the licensing and permitting process as well. Let’s take a closer look at what kinds of licenses your North Dakota business might need.

Step 1: Search for any necessary North Dakota general business licenses

North Dakota doesn’t have a general business license requirement. However, construction contractors must register with the North Dakota Secretary of State. Contractors need to get a general contractor’s license through the Secretary of State’s Office as well.  

Exercising due diligence regarding permitting and licensing is important. You need to check with your local governments. If you don’t, you might not realize that your county or municipality requires you to get a general business license to operate within the jurisdiction. This can get you into hot water down the road.

It’s important to understand that registering your business as a particular type of business entity with the North Dakota Secretary of State isn’t the same as getting a general business license. When you file your formation documents you’re simply forming your business entity. Obtaining a North Dakota business license is essentially requesting permission to operate, and is an entirely different process.

Step 2: Obtain applicable federal licenses for your North Dakota business

If your business’s activities are regulated by the federal government, you’ll likely need to obtain a federal license. License requirements depend on the industry your business operates in and the services your business provides. Some of the industries regulated by the federal government and the agencies that issue licenses for those industries are provided below.

Step 3: Check for North Dakota permits and licenses

North Dakota state business licenses also depend on the industry in which your business operates. In North Dakota, the Attorney General and the Secretary of State issue permits or licenses depending on the jurisdiction of the agency. Permits issued by the Attorney General’s Office includes:

Your local government might have permitting requirements over these areas as well.

The Secretary of State also issues licenses, which include:

Your local government could have permitting requirements for contractors and fundraisers as well.

North Dakota has two terrific resources for business owners to research what permits or licenses they need for their businesses. North Dakota State University operates one database. Business owners can look through the Secretary of State’s registry of boards and commissions to help narrow down their search.

Step 4: Check your city or county for for local licensing in North Dakota  

Municipal and county governments have individual licensing and permitting requirements. Obtaining the correct licenses and permits at the local level is extremely important. You don’t want to be on the wrong side of the town or county government. Therefore, small business owners should check with their local government before opening for business. Not only does this help you get the right permits and licenses, but it may also help foster a good reputation for your business in the community.

It’s important to be aware of your local government’s zoning by-laws, alcohol licensing requirements, occupancy requirements, fire code, electrical code, road or highway permits, and the permitting process from the local department of weights and measures. Your town might require a general business license as well. Finally, don’t forget about taxes. Your town might assess property tax, excise tax, sales tax, use tax, and food and beverage taxes. 

Of course, your business might not have to worry about all of these licenses and permits.  However, your local government has a hand in making sure your business is safe and complies with all legal requirements. You could use the local government’s website as a good resource.  Additionally, you could check with the county clerk’s office and the local tax office if you have questions.

Step 5: Search for applicable North Dakota professional licenses

Lawyers and doctors need professional licenses before they can practice in their industries. Other professions such as plumbers, electricians, and others require professional licenses. North Dakota has boards of registration that govern who’s qualified to have a professional license. Business entities don’t hold professional licenses, individuals do. Working as a professional without a license could be a criminal offense so make certain you have the appropriate professional license before starting work. 

Step 6: Obtain any other necessary North Dakota business licenses and permits

Paying taxes is a vital component of remaining compliant with state and federal laws. Businesses buying and selling goods must register with the state of North Dakota to pay sales and use taxes, even if you sell goods online. 

The state has other tax requirements too. No matter what industry you’re in, it’s a good idea to check with the North Dakota Tax Commissioner’s Office to ensure compliance with North Dakota’s tax laws.

Your local government may help you navigate their permitting and licensing requirements. Most areas have zoning ordinances or by-laws. You can’t operate your business in an area not zoned for business without a variance. Similarly, your local government might have signage requirements that you need to comply with. 

If you decide you want to build office space or renovate existing buildings, then you may need environmental permits and building permits. Additionally, selling food and providing health care services requires a license from the local board of health. Check with your local fire marshall or fire chief to determine whether your business needs occupancy permits. Furthermore, you may need to check with your local government to ensure that your business complies with the requirements of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).

Step 7: Apply for North Dakota home-based business licenses

Home-based businesses aren’t exempt from complying with the requirements of state law or local regulations. You still need to comply with the same licensing and permit requirements as businesses operating in commercial spaces. In fact, your area might have specific requirements for home-based businesses. Home businesses must also consider zoning requirements. You might need to apply for a variance to zoning requirements depending on where you live. 

Step 8: Maintain your North Dakota licensing 

Very few, if any, licenses are permanent. Therefore, you may need to renew your license or permits before they expire. Waiting until the very last minute to renew is a bad idea. Have a plan to renew your licenses and permits before they’ve expired.

We can help you with your licensing and permitting needs

The amount of time you spend researching your license and permitting requirements might be better spent running your business. That’s where we can help. With our business license report, you can narrow down your search and spend more time growing your business rather than searching for permits. Our partner company researches local, state, and federal licensing requirements based upon your industry, location, and business activities. The result is an easy-to-use and efficient resource that helps you know exactly what permits you need for your business. And if you’re just getting started with your business, we can help you set up your North Dakota LLC or North Dakota corporation in just minutes!

Disclaimer: The content on this page is for information purposes only, and does not constitute legal, tax, or accounting advice. If you have specific questions about any of these topics, seek the counsel of a licensed professional.


  • Do all North Dakota businesses need a license?

    Not all businesses need a license. Contractors, professional licensees, companies selling alcohol, tobacco, along with some others need licenses from the government before they operate.

  • Can you sell things without a license in North Dakota?

    That depends on what you’re selling. You might need a federal license, a state-issued license, or a local permit before you sell any products.

  • Is it legal to run a business from home in North Dakota?

    Yes, but you are subject to all of the requirements of a business that operates in a commercial space, including the zoning by-laws.

  • What kind of license do I need for an online business in North Dakota?

    You don’t need a license to operate an online business. However, you are subject to all requirements other businesses need to follow including paying sales and use taxes.

  • Do I need a license to collect sales tax in North Dakota?

    Yes, you need to register your business with the North Dakota Tax Commissioner’s Office to collect sales taxes.

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