Residential Building Permit Plan Review Process

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

The following steps provide an overview of the online residential building permit submission and review process. If you need technical assistance with the system, call: 703-228-7638.

Be aware that some residential properties are considered commercial per the Building Code and require commercial permits. If you’re unsure, determine whether your project is Residential or Commercial.

Step 1

Visit ePlan review, register / log in and upload the following:

  • Each plan sheet must be uploaded as an individual PDF file. The construction set should NOT be submitted as one file. Specification sheets can be uploaded as a single PDF file.
  • All documents submitted for review must be saved as searchable PDF files.
  • A 3 in. x 3 in. blank space is required at the top-right corner of each submitted document. This space is for Arlington County’s approval stamp, which is applied at permit issuance.
  • Plan sheets must be 11 in. x 17 in. minimum size and 1/8 in. minimum scale. If a Land Disturbing Activity (LDA) or Civil Engineering Plans (CEP) is required, copies of the civil sets must be uploaded with the building permit. If you are unsure whether your project requires an LDA or CEP, contact the Department of Environmental Services (DES). Be aware that LDAs and CEPs are separate permits and processes.
  • For residential projects, review submission requirements.
  • Follow standard file naming conventions.
  • 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 present for all steps of the permitting process, the party that applies for and/or picks up the permit will need to have a Permit Authorization Affidavit.
Step 2

Your application, construction documents and required forms will be reviewed for completeness (approximately two business days). If incomplete, you will be contacted by email about what is missing.

If the application is complete, you may be contacted about a filing fee, if required. 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

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. View Residential Plan Review Processing Times.

While the review is ongoing, applicants can learn more by entering their permit number and selecting View Comments. However, this information is incomplete prior to the comment letter, which the applicant will receive once all reviews are complete.

View Permit Revisions to learn how to respond to comments as well as revise your plans to address comments. Be aware that revisions to the building permit may also require revisions to other permits and approvals to ensure coordination.

If the building permit is approved while other associated permits are still pending, the building permit will not move on to the next step until the other permits are approved.

Step 4

The application will proceed once all of the required reviews have been approved. You will be contacted to confirm fees and contractor information (approximately two business days).

ePlan Review

The following tables describe approximate processing / review times for each type of residential building permits.

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

Express Criteria

Disclaimer: Residential express reviews are intended to be accomplished in a short amount of time. If the nature or complexity of the proposed work precludes a quick review, the project may be classified as a route-through review even though it meets the following criteria:

  • The area of work must be less than 750 sq. ft.
  • Work is limited to one story only
  • Additions must be located on the ground floor or basement of the house
  • Basements must have the minimum code required ceiling height for a basement
  • The project does not include the replacement of all floor joists at any one story
  • The project does not include the removal of load-bearing walls on a nonconforming building
  • The dwelling will be habitable during the period of construction
  • The house does not have more than a maximum of three toilets; including any new toilets in the proposed work; or the house must have an existing 1 in. water service line
  • Must be less than 2,500 sq. ft. of land disturbance
  • This project does not include a retaining wall that is retaining 3 ft. or more of soil
Step 5

The applicant will receive an email with the permit balance. Once payment is received, the applicant will be provided a digital copy of the permit and placard. Once the permit has been obtained and posted, construction work can begin.

The applicant will receive access to the approved plan set (approximately two business days). This set will be available in the ePlan Review portal.

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

  • The approved plan set must also 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.
  • Supporting documentation
Step 6

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. Applications for permits can be submitted via the ePlan Review Portal.

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

Step 7

Construction work cannot begin until permits have been approved and posted. 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.

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

Step 8

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
Scheduling Inspections

Once your permits have been approved, you must schedule inspections to ensure the safety and proper progress of the project.


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.