Register a Business in the Province of British Columbia

Sep 27, 2023

Starting a business in British Columbia (B.C.) and need to know about business registration? The basic registration procedure is the same, no matter where you live in Canada, but the details are different in each province and territory. This article will guide you through the steps you need to follow to get your new sole proprietorship, partnership or incorporated business legally set up in B.C. 


Choose a Form of Business Ownership

When you plan to start a business in British Columbia, you must determine the legal structure for your new venture. In Canada, you have four main options for business ownership: sole proprietorship, partnership, incorporating your business, or forming a cooperative. To understand the benefits and drawbacks of each option, you can refer to my article titled “Choosing a Form of Business Ownership.”


Choose a Business Name

When starting a new business, it’s important to select an appropriate name. The choice of name depends on the type of business you’re establishing, as registration requirements vary for each form of ownership. If you decide to operate as a sole proprietorship using your own name, without any additions, you won’t need to register your business in British Columbia.

However, if you opt to run a sole proprietorship under a different name, or if you intend to establish a partnership or corporation, you must get your proposed name approved by the provincial Corporate Registry before registering your business. To do this, you need to complete and submit a Name Approval Request Form. There are three options for submitting the form:

1. Online submission through a BC OnLine account or the B.C. Government Name Requests Online service, enabling electronic form submission (cost: $31.50).
2. In-person visit to a Service BC Centre or OneStop service delivery location to fill out and submit the form (cost: $30.00).
3. In-person visit to a Community Futures or Chamber of Commerce office to fill out and submit the form (cost varies).

If preferred, you can also mail the completed form along with a check (payable to the Minister of Finance) to the following address:

BC Registry Services
PO Box 9431 Stn Prov Govt,
Victoria, B.C. V8W 9V3.

The Name Approval Request Form serves the primary purpose of reserving your chosen business name. However, it’s important to note that reserving or registering a business name does not provide exclusive protection for that name. Similar business names can be registered by individuals in other provinces.

Normally, it takes around three working days for the name approval request to be processed. For faster service, you can pay an additional fee (currently $100) for priority processing, which typically takes 24 hours. The search results can be checked online, mailed to you, or provided over the phone if you’ve been in contact with a local government agent. If any of the business names you proposed are approved, the name will be reserved for you for 56 days. If you fail to complete the registration process within this timeframe, you’ll need to start over by submitting another Name Approval Request.


How to Choose a Name

Apart from some basic details like your name, address, and business nature, you will also need to provide three possible choices for the name of your business on the form.

When it comes to a business name, there are three components to consider:

1. A unique element that sets the name apart.
2. A descriptive element that explains the nature or type of business.
3. A corporate designation that indicates the legal structure of the company, such as Limited, Incorporated, or Corporation. You can use abbreviations for these designations.

If you are registering a sole proprietorship or partnership, your business name will consist of the first two parts only.

The distinctive element is a unique word or phrase that is not descriptive, like a location, your name, a coined term, or initials, as defined by the BC Corporate Registry.

The descriptive element describes the nature or type of business.

The corporate designation comprises the words that indicate the legal structure of the company, such as Limited, Incorporated, or Corporation. You can use the abbreviated forms for these words.

For example, if I choose the business name “Qualicum Beach Antiques,” the distinctive element would be “Qualicum Beach,” while “Antiques” would be the descriptive element. If I plan to incorporate the business, I might choose a name like “Qualicum Beach Antiques Ltd.,” including a corporate designation in the business name.

For further information on the components of a business name and the permissible options for each business type, refer to the instructions section of the Name Approval Request Form.


Tips for Choosing a Name

Make sure to select three potential names. If you only provide one name and it’s already taken, you would essentially waste your fee. Additionally, arrange your preferred business name choices in order. When the Name Approval Request Form is reviewed, the Ministry will only search until a name is approved or all choices are rejected. Therefore, they will only search for your first choice if it is available.


Don’t Use the New Name Until Business Registration is Complete

If your request for a name is approved, the Corporate Registry suggests refraining from spending money on advertising, printing new business cards, or any other investments related to your new name, since the name is only reserved. It’s advisable to save your money until your business name registration in B.C. is fully processed.

Imagine the frustration of promoting a name that someone else ultimately uses. Similarly, it’s important to understand that sole proprietorships and partnerships don’t have legal name protection; only corporations enjoy that privilege.


Registering a Sole Proprietorship or Partnership 

To facilitate the registration process for Sole Proprietorships and Partnerships, an online service called OneStop Business Registration can be used. This service offers the following conveniences:

1. Facilitates the completion of your business registration.
2. Enables registration with the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) for the Federal Goods and Services Tax (GST).
3. Allows registration for the Provincial Sales Tax (PST).
4. Provides the option to register for WorkSafeBC coverage if necessary.
5. Facilitates registration with the CRA for payroll deductions if required.
6. Enables registration with Industry Canada if needed.

Alternatively, you can submit the completed registration form in person at your local government agent’s office or mail it to the Ministry of Finance, with the address specified on the Registration Form. Depending on whether you are registering a sole proprietorship or partnership, you will need to fill out a Statement of Registration Sole Proprietorship or a Statement of Registration General Partnership respectively. Along with these forms, you must submit your declaration and the applicable fee, which is currently $40 for a general partnership. However, please note that this fee is exclusive to general partnerships. The registration fee for a limited partnership is presently $165, plus a $30 fee for name approval.

To successfully complete the registration, make sure you have the following information at hand:

1. Your name approval request number.
2. Your business name, exactly as it was approved by the Corporate Registry.
3. The start date of your business.
4. A physical address in B.C. that can be used as your “real” address, not just a general delivery, rural route, or post office box.


Registering an Incorporated Business

Incorporating a company in British Columbia (B.C.) involves a more lengthy and expensive process compared to OneStop Business Registration. Instead, you can submit your incorporation applications online via the Corporate Online platform.

To begin the B.C. incorporation process, you have already taken the initial step of reserving a name for your new company. If you wish, you can use the incorporation number as the name for your company, in which case you can skip the name reservation process, and the Corporate Registry will assign a number to your B.C. corporation.

To incorporate your company in British Columbia, you need to undertake the following steps:

1. Fill out an Incorporation Agreement.
2. Specify the Articles of Incorporation for your company.
3. Submit an Incorporation Application.

The Incorporation Agreement mainly details the ownership of the corporation, including the names of the incorporators (shareholders) and the number of shares each shareholder will possess (refer to “How Do I Set Up Share Classes for My New Corporation?” for more information).

The Articles of Incorporation establish the guidelines for the operation of the company. You can review an example of Table 1 Articles that you may adapt for your B.C. corporation (BC Registration Services: Corporate Online). Consider the Incorporation Application as the official registration form for your corporation.

You can complete the incorporation registration process either online or by mail. For online incorporation, visit the Corporate Online platform. If you prefer mailing your application, contact Dye & Durham at 1-800-665-6211, and they can assist you with the filing. You will need to send them a fully completed and signed copy of the Incorporation Application, along with a check.

For mailing purposes, use the following address for Dye & Durham:

Dye & Durham
734 Broughton Street
Victoria B.C. V8W 1E1

Whether you choose to file online or by mail, the Corporate Registry suggests working with the paper version of the B.C. Incorporation Application. The current cost for filing the Incorporation Application through Corporate Online or Dye & Durham is $388.68. Keep in mind that while these are the required documents for incorporation registration, you will need to file additional documents for your corporation once it is established. For more information, refer to “What to Do Once You Get Your Certificate of Incorporation.”


Federal Incorporation

If you plan on operating across the entire country, you might choose to incorporate at a federal level. This allows your company to conduct business anywhere in Canada and can enhance your reputation if you have international business aspirations. Additionally, federal incorporation provides nationwide protection for your business name. (You can learn more about the distinction between federal and provincial incorporation.)

To federally incorporate your business, you need to submit the Articles of Incorporation to Corporations Canada. Corporations Canada is responsible for administering the Canada Business Corporations Act (CBCA) and is the designated office for all corporate filings. Their offices are located in Vancouver, Ottawa, Montreal, and Toronto.


Registering a Cooperative

When deciding on a business structure, you can consider a cooperative as an alternative option. Cooperatives operate differently compared to other businesses by adhering to democratic principles, where each member holds equal voting rights. In addition to shared ownership, members also participate in decision-making processes.

To establish a cooperative, you need to follow a similar registration or incorporation procedure as non-cooperative businesses. The Cooperative Association Act outlines the necessary steps for registration, and you can find guidance on incorporating a cooperative association in British Columbia by referring to the provided guide. This resource includes the required forms for the incorporation process, and currently, there is a fee of $250 for incorporating a cooperative.

Regardless of the business structure you select, seeking advice from experienced professionals in business setup is advisable. Apart from consulting with a lawyer or a notary public, it would be beneficial to discuss your specific circumstances with an accountant who can provide guidance on the most suitable form of business ownership for you.


Need more information? CBES is here to assist you; feel free to contact us for expert guidance.


You can find Contracts and Documents for Business Owners in Canada here



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