Obtaining a Building Permit
Anyone who tries to talk you into getting your own building permit is not doing you any favors. Licensed contractors should obtain all building permits, not the consumer. The permit holder becomes the general contractor and assumes all responsibility for the overall job - which may include taxes, worker's compensation, and other legal liabilities.
Unless you are very experienced in construction, it is best to leave these matters to your licensed contractor - and insist the contractor obtains all necessary building permits.
Guidelines on Selecting a Contractor
The Virginia Department of Professional and Occupational Regulation has an information booklet (PDF)
entitled "What You Should Know... Before You Hire A Contractor." It is written specifically to assist the consumer in dealing with building contractors.