Virginia death records are held confidential for 50 years, after which time they become public record. That means that anyone can make a request for a 50+ year old death record as long as they submit a completed application and pay the search fee. Any records more recent than that will only be released to direct relatives of the deceased (child, parent, sibling, spouse or grandparent only).
As long as the death took place after 1912, you will be able to access the record through the Vital Records office. That's the year the state began to do its own collecting of birth and death registration information. Before then, it was the responsibility of the town or county and they continue to have their own archives for pre-1912 deaths right back to as early as 1850. You'll need to contact the county clerk's office for records that old though.
But for anything after 1912, you can just send a simple request to Vital Records and request a Virginia death record. The form is available to be printed from their website (http://www.vdh.virginia.gov/Vital_Records/documents/appform.pdf) though it is used for other types of records as well. Make sure you are filling out the death record section to ensure you get the records you expect.
Complete the form with the name of the deceased, where they died, when they died, their birthdate or age and their parent's names if you know them. Also complete the sections to identify yourself with name, address and phone number. You have to have a photocopy of your own ID with your application, unless you are applying in person when you can just show your ID to the clerk.
Even if you are looking for a record more than 50 years old with no relationship restrictions, you still need to provide your ID.
A Virginia death record costs $12 USD, which is not refunded even if your record is not located. You can pay in cash at the counter, but will need a check or money order made out to the State Health Department for all mailed in applications. They don't take credit cards.
For mailing your paperwork, the address is the Virginia Department of Health, Division of Vital Records, PO Box 1000, Richmond VA, 23218 USA. The physical street address for in-person service is now the First Market Bank Building, 2001 Maywill Street in Richmond. The office recently moved (in May 2011) so take note of the new address if you've already been there before. The office is open to the public Monday through Saturday (mornings only on Saturdays).
You can get your Virginia death records while you wait if you arrive in person, and will have a wait time between 1 week to a month if you choose to send by mail instead.
There are also a good collection of death record indexes housed with the Library of Virginia ((http://www.lva.virginia.gov/), particularly for pre-1912 events and vital records. Many of their holdings can be ordered through inter-library loans.
To request a Virginia death certificate by mail, you can follow the steps below:
Print a Virginia Death Certificate form and complete it in full. Make sure to sign the application.
Make a legible photocopy of your government-issued ID to accompany your request.
Mail the completed application and ID to the address listed below. You will also need to include a check or money order covering the $12 fee.
For more help accessing Virginia death records, you can contact the office below:
Virginia Department of Health
Division of Vital Records
P.O. Box 1000
Richmond, VA 23218-1000
Requesting Virginia Death Records
Persons needing to access Virginia death records can do so by contacting the Virginia Department of Health. The Department of Health is home to all of Virginia's recent vital records, including Virginia death records.
Ways To Order Your Death Records
The Department of Health suggests making your request for Virginia death records by mail. If you need faster service, then you can make a request in person or online through a third party company specializing in vital records. Expedited charges will be applied to online requests.
Relationship To The Deceased
Because Virginia death records less than 50 years are not considered public information, you will be requested for your relationship to the deceased. In order to access a record, you must be the surviving spouse, parent or grandparent, sibling or child to be able to access the record.