If you qualify for a VA Loan, you can get a mortgage without needing a down payment or having to pay for mortgage insurance. However, you must apply for a VA Loan Eligibility Certificate before you can apply for the loan.
What is an eligibility certificate?
A Certificate of VA Loan Eligibility (COE) is the first step toward getting a VA loan. The COE is provided by the US Department of Veterans Affairs and serves as proof that you meet the requirements to be eligible for a VA loan. Without it, you won’t be able to enjoy the bass VA loan rate and other benefits.
How to Get a VA Loan Eligibility Certificate
To obtain a VA Loan Eligibility Certificate, you will need to meet some key requirements. These vary depending on your status (active duty or veteran), length of service, and discharge status:
- If you are currently on active duty, you must have served at least 90 consecutive days.
- For veterans, the service requirements are a little more complex, varying from 90 days of active duty to 24 continuous months. To determine if you meet the requirements, review VA standards.
There are three main options for obtaining your Certificate of Eligibility:
- Apply online: VA eBenefits online portal is the easiest and fastest way to obtain your certificate of eligibility.
- Ask your mortgage lender: If you know what VA lender who you would like to work with, you can ask the lender to help you get your COE.
- Apply by mail: You can print the VA COE Application Form, complete it and return it to the appropriate regional lending center (addresses are on the form). Keep in mind that this option will take longer.
What you need to get a VA COE
If you are currently active, you will need a statement of service signed by your commanding officer, warrant officer, or personnel office that includes your name, social security number, and date of birth. It will also need to document the day you started your service, any lost time, and the name of the command providing the information.
If you are a veteran, you will need your discharge or separation papers (DD214).
If you are a discharged member of the National Guard or Reserve and have never been activated, you will need to meet a few other requirements in order to document your eligibility. Check that the VA is complete listing what you need for your application.
Surviving spouses also have additional paperwork. You will need to complete the VA Application for Loan Guarantee Eligibility Determination – Unmarried Surviving Spouses form. Next, you will need to find your spouse’s military history, which you can do via the National Archives; a copy of your marriage license; and a copy of your spouse’s death certificate.
How long does it take to receive a COE?
If you apply online and your eligibility is easy to check, obtaining your COE can be a relatively quick process: around 30 days. If you can, however, apply early and allow six weeks for processing.
In rare cases, verification of service and eligibility may take time. For example, if your discharge has been classified as “less than honorable,” you may go through the VA’s discharge character review process, which can take up to a full year.
What should I do when I get my COE?
When you have your COE, it’s time to move forward with the VA loan process. Receiving a COE does not automatically mean that you are approved for a VA loan; it only means that you are eligible to apply. You will still need to go through the application process and meet the lender’s criteria, which may vary from lender to lender.
The process is quite similar to other loans at this point and involves reviewing your credit history, debt-to-equity ratio, and overall financial situation.
When does a COE expire?
Your VA Home Loan Eligibility Certificate never expires; once you’re eligible, you’re set. However, there is a caveat to this rule: if you receive your COE while on active duty, you may need to obtain a new COE once your status changes to veteran.