VA Loan Certificate of Eligibility: Everything You Need to Know
VA loans are an incredible benefit offered to service members who meet certain criteria. These benefits are exclusive to qualified veterans, service members and their surviving spouses. They provide opportunities that you don’t get with other loans, such as the ability to refinance your home up to 100% of its worth, no down payments on a home purchase and more.
In order to take advantage of these benefits, you need to prove you’re eligible with a Certificate of Eligibility, or COE. In this article, you’ll find more information on the COE, including what it is, how to get it and how it works.
What Is a Certificate of Eligibility?
A COE is a form provided by the Department of Veterans Affairs that indicates to the lender that you’re eligible for a VA loan. In order to be eligible for a VA loan, you must meet one of the following requirements:
- 181 days of service during peacetime
- 90 days of service during wartime
- 6 years of creditable service in the Reserves or National Guard
- Are the surviving spouse of a service member who died in the line of duty
Providing a COE proves that you meet the requirements and are eligible to receive a VA loan.
Why Is having a Certificate of Eligibility Important?
Without a COE, lenders are unable to approve you for a VA loan and the benefits that come along with it. Providing an up-to-date COE allows lenders to determine your entitlement and to help you get the right loan for your needs.
Your COE also provides the entitlement code for lenders to use to determine your loan eligibility. That entitlement code informs the lender about your military service and allows lenders to determine if you’re required to pay the VA funding fee, a fee that goes directly to the Department of Veterans Affairs.
Where Do I Get a Certificate of Eligibility?
There are a few ways to go about getting a COE. You can apply online directly or print out a request for your COE directly from the VA website. You can also work with your lender to receive your COE. But keep in mind that not all lenders are able to do this due to VA guidelines. Make sure to ask your lender if they’re able to originate VA loans.
There are some instances in which your lender may be unable to request your COE for you. Please keep in mind, if any of the following factors apply to you, your lender may not be able to retrieve this document:
- You’re in the Reserves or National Guard
- You’ve had a foreclosure in the past
- You received a discharge other than honorable
- You’re a surviving spouse
How Long Does It Take to Receive a Certificate of Eligibility?
The length of time it takes to receive a Certificate of Eligibility varies based on different factors. A few factors that can increase the time it takes to receive your COE include:
- Requesting the document by mail
- Length of time since you’ve served
Allowing your lender to request your COE is generally the quickest way to receive this document.
What Do I Do Once I’ve Got My Certificate of Eligibility?
Once you’ve received your COE, whether through the Department of Veterans Affairs or through your lender, you can begin the process of finding a home to purchase and getting approved for a VA loan.
Once you’ve found your home, your lender will work with you to get your loan approval and complete the steps needed to close on a loan if you’re approved.
What Else Should I Know About the Certificate of Eligibility?
There are a few additional details to know about your Certificate of Eligibility. While your COE proves to lenders that you’re eligible for a VA loan, it doesn’t guarantee an approval. Providing the COE allows the lender to review your loan for approval but isn’t an approval on its own.
It’s also important to note that while generally these certificates don’t expire, there may be some instances where a new COE is needed. An example of this is if your original COE was obtained while you were on active duty. If you’re no longer active duty, a new COE would be required upon your discharge.
Receiving your Certificate of Eligibility is the first step toward purchasing a home using a VA loan. Find additional details regarding the COE, including a list of evidence needed to receive the COE, on the Department of Veterans Affairs website. You can also speak to a Home Loan Expert.