Business Licenses and Permits

Once you’ve decided to start a business in Arlington, begin getting your local, state and federal paperwork in order. Arlington offers support and resources for getting your business going, all of which can be found at the Business Center webpage. Learn how to make the process of starting or renovating a new business smoother and easier with Small Business Permits: Top Tips for Success.

Below are the checklists 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 is consistent.

  • 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.

    • Home businesses require a home occupancy permit.
    • Commercial and retail businesses are generally permitted by right in several commercial and industrial zones, with additional office zones for commercial. See the zoning map.
  • Human Services
    The Department of Human Services may require permits and licenses for food, hotel, motel, swimming pool, mobile food vendor and 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 30 days of receiving the Certificate of Occupancy and have an operational recycling program in place within 90 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
    Businesses 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 3 or more regular employees is required to furnish workers’ compensation insurance coverage at no cost to the employees. The employer may purchase the insurance through a private insurance company or apply to the Workers’ Compensation Commission to be a self-insurer.
  • If you are hiring employees, remember that you’ll have to pay a state unemployment tax.


  • An Employer Identification Number (EIN), also known as a federal tax identification number, is used to identify a business entity. 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.

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