Certificates of incorporation are filed with the state where a corporation maintains its residency. These documents are part of the public record because they serve to inform the public of the authorized existence of corporations registered with the state and who members the public can contact if they need to sue the business. The popularization of the Internet has led every state to make its corporate records database available online. Most state databases append a printable image of the certificate of incorporation that can serve as a substitute for a lost certificate. Some states charge a fee to print out a copy. Other states only provide certified copies of certificates and only upon written request and when accompanied by the appropriate fee.
Go to the state website for business incorporations for the state where the corporation maintains its official registration. If you do not know where the corporation maintains its official registration, go to the state website for any state where the corporation maintains an office or business location.
Read More: How to Locate Articles of Incorporation
Access the state's business entity database. Enter the name of the corporation in the search field and pull up the corporation's public information. Many states append a copy of all of the corporation's filings -- including the certificate of incorporation -- to its record in the database.
Navigate to the "fees and forms" section of the state website if your state does not append the image of the certificate of incorporation to the database record, or if you need a certified copy of the certificate. Access the state's schedule of fees. The schedule will include the instructions for sending in a request for anything listed on the schedule of fees.
Fill out an order form. The state usually provides a downloadable order form where you can indicate the name of the corporation, the document you need, the address to which it should be sent and how you intend to pay. Send the order form to the state office with payment.
In most states, the corporations division of the secretary of state's office handles business incorporations and related filings. In a handful of states, business registrations are handled by a different state agency. The U.S. Small Business Administration maintains a list of state business registrars if you have difficulty finding the appropriate state agency.
You should receive your copy of the certificate of incorporation within 10 days.
Terry Masters has been writing for law firms, corporations and nonprofit organizations since 1995, specializing in business topics, personal finance, taxation, nonprofit issues, and general legal and marketing content creation for the Internet. Terry holds a Juris Doctor and a Bachelor of Science in business administration with a minor in finance.