Business Licenses and Permits

Once you’ve decided to start a business in Arlington County, you can begin getting your local, state, and federal paperwork in order. Arlington offers many supports and resources for getting your business going and thriving, all of which can be found here in the Business Center. Before you begin, learn how to make the process of starting or renovating a new business smoother and easier with these top tips for small business permitting.

Below, you’ll find a checklist of licenses and permits, organized by jurisdiction.

Arlington County

Although different types of businesses — home-based, commercial, and retail — require different permits, much of the process in Arlington County is consistent. Learn more here:

  • Zoning and permits: The Arlington County Zoning Ordinance regulates the location of various kinds of land uses, including different types of businesses. Get tips on making the process more efficient.
    • Commercial and retail businesses are generally permitted by-right in several commercial and industrial zones, with additional office zones for commercial. Look at the zoning map here.
  • Human Services: Arlington County Department of Human Services may require permits and licenses for: food, hotel, motel, swimming pool, mobile food vendor, temporary food licenses
  • Certificate of Occupancy: You’ll need a Certificate of Occupancy, along with relevant building permits and inspections, if your business involves a new or altered building or a change in occupancy, location, ownership, or use of any land or building.
  • Recycling: Businesses are required by law to recycle aluminum cans, cardboard, glass, metal cans, metal household items, mixed paper and plastics. They must submit a recycling plan with the Department of Environmental Services within thirty days of receiving the Certificate of Occupancy and have an operational recycling program in place within ninety days.
  • Signs: You’ll need to submit a Sign Permit Application if your business will have any sort of sign.
  • Register Trade Name: If you’ll be doing business under a fictitious name, you must register the fictitious trade names with the Arlington County Commissioner of Revenue.
  •  Business License: Business are required to prepare and obtain a business license and tax forms. Although these are local forms, don’t forget about filing state and federal taxes as well.

Commonwealth of Virginia

  • The Virginia Department of Professional and Occupational Regulation (DPOR) regulates more than 30 occupations and professions,  ranging from architects and contractors to cosmetologists and professional wrestlers. Visit the DPOR website to download the appropriate forms and register for certification courses.
  • Visit the Virginia State Corporation Commission to register and organize your business.
  • Any employer who has three or more regular employees is required to furnish workers’ compensation insurance coverage at no cost to the employees. The employer may either purchase the insurance through a private insurance company or apply to the Workers’ Compensation Commission to be a self-insurer. For additional information contact:
    Virginia Workers’ Compensation Commission
    520 King Street, Suite 203
    Alexandria, Virginia 22314
    (703) 518-8055
  • If you are hiring employees, remember that you’ll have to pay a state unemployment tax. For more information contact:
    Virginia Employment Commission
    5520 Cherokee Avenue, Suite 100
    Alexandria, VA
    (703) 813-1300


  • An Employer Identification Number (EIN) is also known as a federal tax identification number, and is used to identify a business entity. Generally, businesses need an Employer Identification Number (EIN), also known as a federal tax identification number. Visit the Internal Revenue Service to see if you should apply and how.
  • There are certain federal Americans with Disabilities Act requirements related to the build out and maintenance of both commercial and retail locations. Review the ADA website to ensure that your business complies.

More information:



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