Commercial Building Permit Plan Review Process

The following steps provide an overview of the online commercial building permit submission and review process. 

Step 1: Apply Online

Visit Permit Arlington, register/log in and follow the directions to submit an application and upload plans. Review the submission requirements before submitting. Unless the permit holder is the contractor licensed in Virginia for the scope of work on the permit OR the permit holder is the property owner and the applicant, the party that applies for the permit will need to have a Permit Authorization Affidavit.

Step 2: Completeness Check

Your application, construction documents and required forms will be reviewed for completeness (approximately two business days). If incomplete, the applicant and all email contacts provided on the application will be contacted by email. The comment letter(s) may be viewed by visiting Permit Arlington - Review Results Letters and entering the project ID (ex: CTBO22-12345).

If the application is complete, the system will send an email about the filing fee, if required. To pay the fee, the person must be added as a contact on the permit. See the help guidelines for adding contacts to a permit. The fee will not be refunded, even if a permit is not issued. For more information, view Fee Schedules. If a filing fee is not required, your application and supporting documents will be sent to the necessary departments for review.

Step 3: Review and Revisions

The necessary departments will review your application, supporting documents and required forms for compliance with the applicable regulations. Review times begin after a permit is processed and any fees are paid.

Checking Status During Plan Review

  1. Log in to the Permit Arlington customer portal.
  2. Search for the permit number in the upper right corner
  3. Click on the permit number
  4. Click on "Plan Review"
  5. Click on "Review Results & Mark Ups"
  6. Click on "Review Status & History"
  7. The due date for the current step, the assigned reviewers, and the results will be visible here.

Note: There are multiple steps in the process (completeness check, plan review, and final review), and the due dates and assigned reviewers will change as the permit goes through each step. 

Permit Arlington Review

The following tables describe approximate processing / review times for each type of commercial building permits. The type of commercial building permit is determined by the answers provided on the application.

Commercial Permit Type  Approximate Review Times 
Commercial New Construction (CNEW)  15 business days 
Commercial Addition (CADD)   15 business days 
Commercial Interior Alteration Route Through (CTBO)  10 business days 
Express Commercial New Construction (CNEW)  5 business days 
Express Commercial Addition (CADD)   5 business days 
Express Commercial Interior Alteration (CTBO Express)  2 business days 
Maximum Occupant Load Signage Review Only  TBD 

Disclaimer: Approximate review times do not include process in / out time, typically 2 business days each

As part of the building permit process, the maximum occupant load of assembly rooms and spaces will be reviewed by the Inspection Services Division (ISD) and seating will be reviewed by Zoning during the plan review process. If there are not renovations or a change of use and there is not an existing approved maximum occupant load sign, a building permit must be applied for the maximum occupant load to be reviewed. See the submission requirements for the maximum occupant load sign.

Express Criteria

Commercial express reviews are intended to be accomplished in a short amount of time. Any scope of work that require an extensive review because of the complexity of the design or special exception may be classified as a route-through review even though it meets the criteria.

The new commercial structures that may qualify for an express review are limited to trailer, tower crane, Overhead Sidewalk Protection, Air supported structures, and antennas.

The additions to existing commercial structures that may qualify for an express review are limited to awnings and canopies without signages. If the there is signage, it must be submitted as a sign permit.

Commercial alterations may qualify for express if they meet all the following criteria

  • The project is an interior alteration in an existing commercial building
  • There are no site changes, such as changes to parking, windows, doors, exterior vents, etc.
  • The project does not have a change of use per the Building Code or the Zoning Ordinance
  • The project is Business (B) or Mercantile (M, retail) use per the Virginia Construction Code; this means that apartments and other multi-family buildings do not qualify for walk-thru or express review
  • The space is not located on the 1st floor, top floor, penthouse, roof top, or below the 1st floor
  • The project does not include trailers or cranes
  • No structural modifications are being made to the building
  • The project work area is only on one floor of the building
  • The scope of work does not include a commercial kitchen, food handling, or interactive water feature, such as pool, spa, hot tub, or splash pad
  • If the project is located on a property with a site plan, depending on the scope of work and the condition of the site plan, the project may not qualify for express

Once all of the reviews are completed, an email with an attached comment letter will be sent to applicant and all email contacts provided on the application

View Permit Revisions to learn how to respond to comments and revise plans or documents. Be aware that revisions to the building permit may also require the applicant to submit revisions to other permits and approvals to ensure coordination.

If the building permit is approved while the LDA is still pending, the building permit will not move on to the next step until the LDA is approved.

Step 4: Final Processing

After required reviews and revisions are completed, contractor information will be verified and permit fees will be calculated within two business days.

The applicant and all email contacts provided on the application will be contacted by email with any required changes or with fee information. 

To pay the fee, enter the permit number into Permit Arlington Online Payment. See help guidelines for adding contacts to a permit.  

Step 5: Approvals and Printing

Once payment is received, the applicant will be provided with a digital copy of the permit and placard in the Permit Arlington system.

Accessing the Permit and Placard

  1. Log in to the Permit Arlington customer portal and search for the permit number in the upper right corner. 
  2. Click on the permit number.
  3. Click on "Record Info"
  4. Click on "Attachments"
  5. The applicant should see a file named "permit"

Once the permit has been obtained and posted, construction work can begin.

The placard and permit must be posted at the project site, in adherence with the following guidelines:

  • The approved plan set and support documentation must be available on-site prior to any scheduled inspections
  • Minimum sheet size of 11 in. x 17 in.
    • Supporting documentation (ex: project specifications, structural calculations, etc.) may be printed on 8.5 in. x 11 in. pages.
  • Plans should be legible and of an easily-readable scale
  • Other than site plan drawings, no drawing should be printed at a scale smaller than 1/8 in. = 1 ft.

The applicant will receive access to the approved plan set (approximately two business days). This set will be available in the Permit Arlington system.

Accessing the Approved Plan

  1. Log in to the Permit Arlington customer portal and search for the permit number in the upper right corner. 
  2. Click on the permit number.
  3. Click on "Plan Review"
  4. Click on "Approved Documents"
  5. The applicant should seethe approved plan set.
Step 6: Associated Permit Applications

Most building permits require additional Trade Permits (mechanical, electrical, plumbing, etc.) in order to complete the project. Applications for mechanical, plumbing, and electrical permits are submitted separately and issued based on the work shown on building permit construction documents.

If the scope of work includes Fire Protection Systems, separate permits and plans will be required.

Step 7: Scheduling Inspections

Construction work cannot begin until permits have been approved and posted. Once your permits have been approved, you must schedule inspections to ensure the safety and proper progress of the project.

Throughout the project, the applicant or contractor must schedule required Building and Trade Inspections. Be aware that other permits or approvals may require additional inspections specific to those permits.

The individual that will be onsite the day of the inspection must contact the assigned inspector the morning of the inspection. If the inspector is not contacted, the inspection will be cancelled. After 7 a.m. on the day of your scheduled inspection, use this guide to contact your inspector

If there are changes to the plans after the permit has been issued, this will require revisions to the approved plan set.

A wall check may be required per site plan or use permit conditions. The plan reviewer may also request a wall check at their discretion. Wall checks must be submitted as a revision through the Permit Arlington system.

Step 8: Certificate of Occupancy

Depending on your project, a Certificate of Occupancy (CO) may be required prior to occupancy and use of the building or space. A CO requires a separate application, process and fees. The application process for a CO must begin at least two weeks before occupancy begins, and the process can take longer depending on the scope of work.

See Also


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.