If your business is involved in activities supervised and regulated by a federal agency – such as selling alcohol, firearms, commercial fishing, etc. – then you may need to obtain a federal license or permit. Here is a brief list of business activities that require these forms and information on how to apply.
In addition, you can also use SBA’s Permit Me search tool to find general business permits, licenses and registrations required by your state, county or city.
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 (USDA).
If you manufacture, wholesale, import, or sell alcoholic beverages at a retail location, you will need to register your business and obtain certain federal permits (for tax purposes) with the U.S. Treasury’s Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau (TTB). The website has a number of online tools that make this process straightforward. If you are just starting a business in this trade, start by reading the TTB’s New Visitors Guide which offers helpful information for small business owners.
Remember, you will also need to contact your local Alcohol Beverage Control Board for local alcohol business permit and licensing information.
Does your business involve the operation of aircraft; the transportation of goods or people via air; or aircraft maintenance? If so, you’ll need to apply for one or more of the following licenses and certificates from the Federal Aviation Administration:
- FAA Licenses and Certificates - Get licensing information for airmen, aircraft, airports, airlines and medical aviation services.
- Pilot Licenses and Training Requirements
- Aircraft Mechanic Licenses
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 resources from the ATF to make sure your business is properly licensed:
- Firearms Industry Guide – Includes information on obtaining and renewing a federal firearms license, importing firearms and ammunitions, and more.
- Explosives Industry Guide – Find out how to get a federal explosives license.
Fish and Wildlife
If your business is engaged in any wildlife related activity, including the import/export of wildlife and derivative products, must obtain an appropriate permit from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
Commercial fishing businesses are required to obtain a license for fishing activities from the NOAA Fisheries Service. This guide includes quick links to permit applications and information.
If you provide ocean transportation or facilitate the shipment of cargo by sea, you’ll need to apply here for a license from the Federal Maritime Commission.
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 (formerly the Minerals Management Service).
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
Radio and Television Broadcasting
If your business broadcasts information by radio, television, wire, satellite and cable, you may be required to obtain a license from The Federal Communications Commission (FCC).
Transportation and Logistics
If you operate an oversize or overweight vehicle, you’ll need to abide by the U.S. Department of Transportation offers guidelines on maximum weight. Permits for oversize / overweight vehicles are issued by your state government. Get contact information here.