How to Obtain a Business License in Chicago, Illinois

Are you looking to start a business in Chicago, Illinois? Obtaining the necessary business licenses and permits is an important step in the process. The Chicago Department of Business Affairs and Consumer Protection (BACP) is responsible for issuing business licenses and regulating business activity in the city. Depending on your business activities, you may need more than one license to operate your business in Chicago. This guide will help you understand the process for obtaining a business license in Chicago, Illinois.

Apply OnlineBACP's online business license application system, Chicago Business Direct, allows business owners or legal representatives of business owners to apply for most business licenses from the city of Chicago. All applications initiated online must be completed online.

Schedule an Appointment with a Business Consultant

If you need a license, contact the Center for Small Business (SBC) of the Department of Business Affairs and Consumer Protection (BACP) and schedule an appointment with a business consultant. The SBC offers free consultations and is a “one-stop shop” for obtaining business licenses with several resources available, including the site selector, licensing requirements, zoning issues, building permits, inspections, etc.

Understand Your Licensing Requirements

The type of business licenses you need in the state of Illinois depend on where you operate and the type of business you're in. Most businesses must have business licenses from the city of Chicago and the state of Illinois.

Every county or municipality in Illinois has its own licensing requirements and processes, but most require a license or operating permit for all businesses, including sole proprietorships and home-based businesses.

Obtain Necessary Documents

If your business activities require a BACP business license, documents issued by the state of Illinois or other government entities do not replace the need for this license. Follow these steps to obtain the business licenses and permits you need to operate your business in the state of Illinois. For example, you need an Illinois seller's permit to sell on Etsy or to run an independent company based in Illinois. A business license issued by the BACP is required to conduct most business activities in the city of Chicago.

Renew Your Licenses

Every company operating in Illinois needs a registration certificate or license, which some refer to as a seller's permit.

Companies that are engaged in general sales, provide a service and are engaged in office operations or companies that do not belong to another license category and are not exempt from the city's licensing requirement. According to the Illinois Department of Revenue, your Illinois business licenses expire every one to three years, depending on the industry and the type of licenses you hold.

State Commercial Operation License

The state of Illinois does not require or issue a state commercial operation license, a license that simply allows you to do business in the state.