Starting a Business - Licenses & Permits
If your business is involved in activities that are supervised or regulated by a federal agency (ex: selling alcohol, firearms, tobacco, commercial fishing, etc.), then it may be necessary to obtain a federal license or permit.
Federal Licenses & Permits
Main Guide: Starting a Business.
If your business is involved in activities that are supervised or regulated by a federal agency (ex: selling alcohol, firearms, tobacco, commercial fishing, etc.), then it may be necessary to obtain a federal license or permit. Below is a list of business activities that commonly require federal permits & licenses.
Federal - Agriculture
If you import or transport animals, animal products, biologics, biotechnology or plants across state lines, you'll need to apply for a permit from the U.S. Department of Agriculture. You can find resources here.
Federal - Alochol
If you manufacture, wholesale, import, or sell alcoholic beverages at a retail location you will need to register your business & obtain federal permits with the U.S. Treasury's Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau. Their website has online tools that make the process streamlined. You can access their website here.
NOTE: you will also need to contact your local Alcohol Beverage Control Board (ABC) for local alcohol business permit & licensing information.
Federal - Aviation
Businesses involving the operation of aircraft, the transportation of goods or people via air, or aircraft maintenance will need to apply for 1+ of the following licenses and certificates from the Federal Aviation Administration:
Federal - Firearms, Ammunition and Explosives
Firearms, Ammunition and Explosives
Businesses who manufacture, deal and import firearms, ammunitions and explosives must comply with the Gun Control Act’s licensing requirements. The Act is administered by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF). Refer to the following to ensure that your business is properly licensed:
Federal - Fish and Wildlife
Fish and Wildlife
Business engaged in wildlife related activities, including the import and export of wildlife and derivative products must obtain appropriate permits from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
Federal - Commercial Fisheries
Commercial fishing businesses must obtain licenses for fishing activities from the NOAA Fisheries Service.
Federal - Maritime Transportation
Business providing ocean transportation or facilitating the shipment of cargo by sea need to apply for a license from the Federal Maritime Commission.
Federal - Mining and Drilling
Mining and Drilling
Businesses involved in the drilling for natural gas, oil or other mineral resources on federal lands may be required to obtain a drilling permit from the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Regulation and Enforcement.
Federal - Nuclear Energy
Producers of commercial nuclear energy and fuel cycle facilities as well as businesses involved in the distribution and disposal of nuclear materials must apply for a license from the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission.
Federal - Radio and Television Broadcasting
Radio and Television Broadcasting
Business that broadcast information by radio, television, wire, satellite and cable, you may be required to obtain a license from The Federal Communications Commission (FCC).
Federal - Transportation and Logistics
Transportation and Logistics
Business operating an oversize or overweight vehicle need to abide by the U.S. Department of Transportation guidelines on maximum weight. Permits for oversize / overweight vehicles are issued by your state government.
State Licenses & Permits
Business owners can use the Small Business Association's location specific tool to find state and local license permit requirements, or view a directory of license and permit requirements by state here.