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Most small businesses need a combination of licenses and permits from both federal and state agencies. The requirements — and fees — vary based on your business activities, location, and government rules.


  • Federal licenses and permits
  • State licenses and permits

Federal licenses and permits

You’ll need to get a federal license or permit if your business activities are regulated by a federal agency.

Check to see if any of your business activities are listed here, and then check with the right federal agency to see how to apply.

Requirements and fees depend on your business activity and the agency issuing the license or permit. It’s best to check with the issuing agency for details on the business license cost.

Business activity Description Issuing agency
If you import or transport animals, animal products, biologics, biotechnology or plants across state line.
Alcoholic beverages
If you manufacture, wholesale, import, or sell alcoholic beverages at a retail location.
If your business involves operating aircraft, transporting goods or people via air, or aircraft maintenance.
Firearms, ammunition and explosives
If your business manufactures, deals, or imports firearms, ammunitions, and explosives.
Fish and wildlife
If your business engages in any wildlife related activity, including the import or export of wildlife and derivative products.
Commercial fisheries
If your business engages in commercial fishing of any kind.
Maritime transportation
If you provide ocean transportation or facilitate the shipment of cargo by sea.
Mining and drilling
If your business is involved in drilling for natural gas, oil, or other mineral resources on federal lands.
Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement
Nuclear energy
If your business produces commercial nuclear energy, is a fuel cycle facility, or is involved in distribution and disposal of nuclear materials.
U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission
Radio and television broadcasting
If your business broadcasts information by radio, television, wire, satellite, or cable.
Transportation and logistics
If your business operates an oversize or overweight vehicle. Permits for oversize and overweight vehicles are issued by your state government, but the U.S. Department of Transportation can direct you to the correct state office.


State licenses and permits

The licenses and permits you need from the state, county, or city will depend on your business activities and business location. Your business license fees will also vary.

States tend to regulate a broader range of activities than the federal government. For example, business activities that are commonly regulated locally include auctions, construction, and dry cleaning, farming, plumbing, restaurants, retail, and vending machines.

Some licenses and permits expire after a set period of time. Keep close track of when you need to renew them — it’s often easier to renew than it is to apply for a new one.

You’ll have to research your own state, county, and city regulations. Industry requirements often vary by state. Visit your state’s website to find out which permits and licenses you need.