Washington, DC

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Business permits, licenses and certifications

The District of Columbia regulates business activities and land use in order to protect the economic interests, safety, and property of businesses, residents, and visitors. District of Columbia agencies are empowered by the DC Code to create regulations for District business, and adhere to federal regulations. Below are agencies that create these regulations.

The Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs (DCRA) is the District of Columbia's regulatory agency. DCRA ensures the health, safety, and economic welfare of District residents through licensing, inspection, compliance, and enforcement programs. In addition, Department of Health (DOH) issues certain professional licenses, District Department of Transportation (DDOT) regulates public space, and Office of Zoning (DCOZ) controls land use.

Visit the DC Business Licensing Portal for a personalzed checklist with all the licenses you need to start and maintain your business.

Basic Business License
The Basic Business License (BBL) Program streamlines District of Columbia business licensing procedures. The BBL groups licenses by the type of business activity and regulatory approvals required. These are referred to as "endorsement categories." Businesses can determine whether they need a license, in addition to what fees and documents are required in order to obtain a BBL. For more information about the Basic Business License Program, call (202) 442-4400.

Corporate Registration
Corporations, partnerships, and limited liability companies (LLCs) operating in the District of Columbia have specific initial and ongoing filing requirements. The Corporations Division of the Business and Professional Licensing Administration (BPLA) of the DCRA registers foreign and domestic corporations, partnerships, and LLCs. Entities also file their annual or biannual reports (as applicable) with BPLA.

Trade Name Registration
The District of Columbia allows an entity to register and use a business name (trade name) different from its corporation, partnership, or company name. Similarly, an individual can register and use a trade name different from his or her true name. A trade name is not required if a business or individual operates using its true name. Trade names can be obtained separately or as part of the Basic Business License application.

Department of Health
The Department of Health (DOH) promotes and protects the health, safety, and quality of life of residents, visitors, and those doing business in the District of Columbia. DOH identifies health risks; educates the public; prevents and controls diseases, injuries, and exposure to environmental hazards; promotes effective community collaborations; and optimizes equitable access to community resources. Business-related programs include: food establishment inspections, certain professional licenses, environmental regulations, and rodent control.

Department of Insurance, Securities and Banking
The Department of Insurance, Securities and Banking (DISB) regulates financial service industries operating in and from the District of Columbia by administering District of Columbia insurance, securities, and banking laws, rules, and regulations. The Department's mission is to protect the interest of District of Columbia consumers from unfair and abusive practices and to provide a fair and equitable business arena for the regulated entitles operating in the District of Columbia.

 District Department of Transportation
The District Department of Transportation permits the use or occupancy of the public right-of-way. Within the downtown streetscape area, any project where 50 percent of the adjoining public space (including sidewalks) is planned for construction, a streetscape plan must be approved. This office seeks to facilitate growth in the city and minimize resident inconvenience.

Office of Zoning
The Office of Zoning administers the Zoning Regulations of the District of Columbia controlling land use, density, height, and bulk characteristics of property in the city. The District of Columbia Zoning Atlas consists of a series of sub-maps identifying the designated zoning for all parcels of land in the city. All construction or rehabilitation on private land must conform to the requirements imposed by the Zoning Regulations and Zoning Map adopted by the DC Zoning Commission, or businesses must seek relief before the appropriate bodies.