Firm Registration

All corporations, associations, partnerships and limited liability companies providing architecture or landscape architecture services in the state of Ohio are required to obtain a Firm Certificate of Authorization. It makes no difference whether the firm is located in Ohio or out of state, or whether it was previously grandfathered.

The only exemptions to firm registration are as follows:

  • Sole Proprietors, but only if the firm is not a corporation or a limited liability company.
     
  • Design/Build firms, as defined in Ohio Revised Code sections 4703.182 and 4703.332 and Ohio Administrative Code section 4703-3-12.

Prior to submitting a firm application, please review the Firm Certificate of Authorization Requirements and ensure that your firm meets each of them, including being registered as a domestic or foreign business entity with the Ohio Secretary of State.

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How to Apply for a Firm Certificate of Authorization

  • Apply online at https://elicense.ohio.gov.  
  • For best results, use the browser, Chrome, when applying. 
  • For assistance when applying online, read the Portal Registration Guide or contact the eLicense Help Desk. The Help Desk is available Monday through Friday, 8 AM to 5 PM by calling 855-405-5514.
  • Instructions for completing the firm application are located here.

Architecture and Landscape Architecture firms or firms with a Change of Name must also download, complete and attach the "List of Firm Owners" and submit with their online application. 100% of the firm's ownership must be accounted for along with the name of the firm's Ohio architect or landscape architect in responsible control.

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Failure to possess a current firm certificate of authorization is a violation of the Ohio Revised and Administrative Codes. The Board strictly enforces this law, which may be punishable by a fine and/or suspension or revocation of the individual’s license to practice in the state of Ohio.

If you have questions regarding the firm registration process or requirements, please contact, Chad Holland at (614) 466-1476 or via email at chad.holland@arc.ohio.gov

Firm Registration Requirements:

The following requirements must be met:

  1. More than 50% of the shareholders, members, trustees or partners must be design professionals (architects, landscape architects, engineers, or surveyors) with an active registration in any state. (For example, if ten individuals hold all of the stock or interest in the firm, then six must be registered design professionals.)

Certain architecture firms are exempt from the 50% ownership requirement: firms which were actively registered with the Ohio Secretary of State and granted a charter to do business in the state of Ohio prior to August 7, 1943 or otherwise lawfully providing architectural services prior to November 15, 1982. These firms are still required to obtain a Firm Certificate of Authorization. This exemption does not apply to landscape architecture firms.

  1. More than 50% of the shares or interest in the corporation, partnership, limited liability company, trust, or association must be owned by design professionals with an active registration in any state.

Certain architecture firms are exempt from the requirement regarding the number of shares or percentage of the interest owned: firms which were actively registered with the Ohio Secretary of State and granted a charter to do business in the state of Ohio prior to August 7, 1943 or otherwise lawfully providing architectural services prior to November 15, 1982. These firms are still required to obtain a Firm Certificate of Authorization. This exemption does not apply to landscape architecture firms.

  1. More than 50% of the firm's board of directors (in a corporation) must be actively registered design professionals in any state.

Certain architecture firms are exempt from the board of directors’ requirement: firms which were actively registered with the Ohio Secretary of State and granted a charter to do business in the state of Ohio prior to August 7, 1943 or otherwise lawfully providing architectural services prior to November 15, 1982. These firms are still required to obtain a Firm Certificate of Authorization. This exemption does not apply to landscape architecture firms.

  1. At least one Ohio registered architect or landscape architect, who is a full time employee (full time is defined as working 30+ hours per week) must be in responsible control of the professional activities and decisions of the firm. This individual must hold a current registration in the state of Ohio.
  2. At least one Ohio registered architect, designated in responsible charge of the professional activities and decisions of the firm, is also a member of the firm's Board of Directors. This architect must hold an active registration in Ohio. This requirement does not apply to landscape architecture firms.
  3. All firms must hold active registration to do business in the state of Ohio with the Ohio Secretary of State.

Steps to Firm Registration

Before your firm provides architectural or landscape architecture services in Ohio, please complete the following steps:

  • Ensure that your firm meets each of the statutory ownership requirements to be eligible for firm registration. 
  • If your firm meets the ownership requirements, contact the Ohio Secretary of State, Business Services Division, in order to obtain the business/corporate forms required to do business in the state of Ohio. The Ohio Secretary of State can be reached at (614) 466-3910 or toll-free at (877) 767-3453. They also can be reached on-line at: www.sos.state.oh.us/SOS/Businesses.aspx
  • Once your firm is properly registered to do business in the state of Ohio by the Ohio Secretary of State, go to the eLicense Portal at https://elicense.ohio.gov to apply. You must create an account first, then you can apply for the license.
  • During the online application process, you will be required to upload the following :
    • List of Firm Owners
    • A copy of the certificate/registration to do business in Ohio from the Ohio Secretary of State.
  • You can pay the application fee with an electronic check or credit card. After your firm's application for a new firm certificate of authorization has been approved, you will receive an email with a certificate permitting your firm to legally provide services in Ohio.
  • If the firm is providing BOTH architecture and landscape architecture services, separate applications must be completed online. Each new license costs $125.

Important Information

  • The cost of a new certificate of authorization is $125. The cost to renew a firm registration is $100. If a certificate lapses, a new application must be filed at a cost of $125, plus an eLicense System Transaction Fee of $3.50, for a total of $128.50.
  • All firm certificates expire on June 30 of every year. Firms will be notified via email 60 days prior to the expiration date. Renewal is completed online at https://elicense.ohio.gov
  • A "Firm Certificate of Authorization" and an architect's individual "Certificate of Qualification" (or license) to practice architecture are not the same thing.
  • All changes in the firm's name, address, or ownership must be reported in writing to the board within 30 days.
  • If a firm changes its name, it must apply for a new certificate of authorization.
  • Firms using a trade name registered with the Ohio Secretary of State need to notify the Board in writing. However, a firm using a trade name is still required to file with the Secretary of State to do business in the state of Ohio and obtain a firm certificate of authorization. Both the legal name of the firm and any trade name must remain actively registered with the Ohio Secretary of State. Firms may not use an unregistered fictitious name.​
  • Firms should include the complete firm name, or trade name, on all contracts, letterhead and title blocks. Firms should not shorten or abbreviate the legal name or any trade name in a manner that would be confusing or misleading.
  • The use of firm or corporate seals are not permitted in Ohio. All sealed documents must bear the name and number of one active Ohio registered architect. Electronic seals are permitted in Ohio.
  • Failure to comply with the firm registration requirements may result in penalties, including fines, suspension, or revocation of the designated architect's license.
  • Firms without a current certificate of authorization are not permitted to provide architectural services in Ohio.
  • Firms whose Ohio Secretary of State registration has been cancelled will have their application or renewal held in pending status until the firm has been reinstated.
  • If it is determined by the Board that a firm's application does not meet the requirements, the firm may either withdraw the application and request a refund of the application fee, or request additional time in order to correct the deficiency.

Other Practice Requirements

 Written contracts between architects and their clients are required when providing services in the state of Ohio. Please see the architect rules for complete requirements. 

Professional liability insurance is required on all public projects in the state of Ohio as required by the public entity.