Sign Permit

The Arlington County Permit Office is  CLOSED for in-person customer service. Many services are available online. Learn more.

 

A sign permit is required before any sign or advertising is erected, displayed, replaced, refaced, or its dimensions altered.

  • If you are a new business or tenant, you must first apply for a Certificate of Occupancy (CO).
    • Once you’ve applied for a CO (if applicable), you may apply for a sign permit.
  • All exterior signs and some interior signs require the completion of a sign permit application.
    • The sign permit determines if the sign meets Zoning Ordinance and/or site plan regulations.
    • The sign permit also determines if the sign meets the standards of the Virginia Uniform Statewide Building Code, if required.
  • Any sign with electricity also requires a separate electrical permit in addition to the sign permit.

Applicants are strongly advised to research whether their site is subject to special exceptions such as site plan conditions, a comprehensive sign plan, or a use permit for signs. Applications for sites which are subject to these special exceptions must be accompanied by information explaining how the proposed sign complies with the conditions for special exception approval. Applications for properties subject to site plan conditions, a comprehensive sign plan, or a use permit may require additional review time to assess compliance with the previous approval. If tenants are unsure whether they are subject to special exception conditions of approval for signs, they should consult their landlord or attorney prior to filing. There are no variances allowed for signs under the current Zoning Ordinance.

Submission Requirements

Note: In-person applications are currently suspended due to the COVID-19 health crisis and Permit Office closure.

The following requirements apply to all sign permit applications. Signs placed higher than 40 ft. must also follow the additional submission requirements found below.

You must complete a sign permit application in Permit Arlington. Click “Create” and select “Zoning Application.”

Every application must be accompanied by:

  • Plans or drawings showing the following:
    • Address for the project;
    • Code year used for the design;
    • Name, address and occupation of the building designer. If the plans are prepared by a Virginia-registered design professional, they must bear the original signature, seal and date;
    • Sign dimensions, area, and height;
    • Proposed design and materials;
    • The method of lighting, if any, as well as level of illumination and illumination specifications, including location of a dimming controller switch;
    • The exact location proposed for the sign;
    • Plans for attachment or structures, to scale;
    • Plat showing proposed location of freestanding sign and distance from property lines or any public ways; and 
    • Any alterations or additions to existing structures require the applicant to complete the Asbestos Inspection and Awareness Form.
  • A complete list of requirements can be found in the Zoning Ordinance, §13.
  • Letter of consent from the property owner listed in Arlington tax records, if they are not the same entity as the applicant. An authorized agent may provide consent on behalf of the owner, provided they submit documentation showing their authorization to do so.
  • Pictures or drawings of both existing and proposed signage, showing proposed sign placement on the building (include entire frontage of building).
  • A copy of the site’s comprehensive sign plan, if there is one, with the proposed sign clearly indicated.

 

Additional submission requirements if your sign is to be placed above 40 ft.

  • Demonstration of compliance with all the standards found in the Zoning Ordinance, §13 for signs over 40 ft. in height. Depending on the location of the sign and the building, more information may be needed to demonstrate compliance.
  • Certification (by an engineer or other qualified professional licensed and practicing in Virginia) that the proposed sign will comply with luminance standards in the Zoning Ordinance, § 13.12.
    • Permits are not issued for signs above 40 ft. until this certification is provided.
  • Illumination specifications, including hours of illumination.
  • An analysis of whether the sign faces Line A and/or B on Zoning Ordinance Map 13-1.
  • Elevation drawings showing the height of the building, the height of the sign (measured from natural grade to the bottom of the sign), the distance from the bottom of the sign to the actual roofline (not parapets or penthouses), and the width of the façade upon which the sign is proposed to be placed.
  • Any relevant legislative history such as site plan amendments or use permits.
  • If the property is subject to a site plan and there has not been prior approval for the sign through either the site plan amendment or administrative change processes, then a separate administrative change approval may be required prior to approval of the sign permit.

 

Application Process

Full review of a sign permit (the period between application for the sign permit and issuance of it and of a building permit, if needed) can take up to 35 business days.

This timeframe includes completeness check, staff review, and, if the sign is subject to a comprehensive sign plan or to County Board approval, research to ensure it is compliant with any relevant conditions of approval.

Apply online

Completeness Check

  • Applications will be checked for completeness within 4 business days.
  • Sign permit applications are submitted to Zoning for a completeness check. Upon Zoning’s approval and acceptance of an application, it will be routed to the Inspection Services Division (ISD) for a completeness check if ISD review is required.
  • You will receive an email with further instruction if your application is incomplete.

Review

  • Your application, supporting documents, and required forms will be routed to all relevant reviewers.
  • Plan review for sign permits can take up to 10 business days. Reviews may require additional time (more than 10 business days) due to research and processing of other submissions.
  • Review times do not include completeness check or final processing windows.

Revisions

  • Applicants will receive an email with any review comments.
  • View the Permit Revisions webpage to learn how to respond to comments and revise plans or documents.
  • Once revisions are submitted, the plans will be sent back to the review process.

Changes to applications previously submitted in paper or email

  • If an application was submitted and not issued prior to July 1, 2020, you must re-apply in the Permit Arlington system.
  • If an application was submitted and not issued after July 1, 2020, please create a Permit Arlington account and contact the technical support team to have the appropriate record moved to your account. Please note, a separate building permit may still be required for such records. The combined process is only for applications submitted after Aug. 27, 2021.
    • When you apply for the building permit, please include the ZN permit number in the description work on the building permit application.
  • To ensure the continued processing of permit applications submitted before Aug. 27, 2021, email or call (703-228-3883) the Zoning Division.

Final processing

  • After required reviews and revisions are completed, contractor information will be verified and permit fees will be calculated.
  • You will receive an email with final processing information within 2 business days that includes a permit fee balance to pay online.

Approvals and printing

  • Once payment is received, you will receive a digital copy of the permit through your Permit Arlington account.
  • If there is an approved plan set, it will be available within two (2) business days and also accessible through your Permit Arlington account.
  • The applicant is responsible for printing the permit and, if there is one, the approved plan set. Construction may not begin until permits have been approved and posted.
  • View printed plan set requirements.
  • Signs that include illumination or other electrical wiring require an electrical permit to complete the project. Applications for electrical permits are submitted separately and issued based on the work shown on sign permit construction documents.

Scheduling Inspections

If your sign permit accompanies a building permit, you must schedule an inspection with the Inspection Services Division (ISD).

Fees

Fee Schedules provide the range of fees charged for each type of application or activity related to land development in Arlington. Fees cover permitting, plan review, enforcement, inspection, service delivery, performance agreements and conditions. There are separate fee schedules for Inspection Services Division (ISD), Zoning and the Department of Environmental Services (DES). Some permits involve fees from more than one schedule.