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, plus no down payments on home purchases and more.
In order to take advantage of these benefits, however, 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 or 90 days serving under Title 32 with at least 30 of those days being consecutive
- Service time requirements don't apply if you've been discharged from the service due to a service-connected disability
- Are the surviving spouse of a service member who died in the line of duty
Providing a COE (also referred to as Form 26-1880) proves that you meet these 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, which goes directly to the Department of Veterans Affairs.
Where Do I Get A VA 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 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 that 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
It is also recommended that you provide your proof of service form along with your COE. For veterans who entered the service after September 7, 1980, and were discharged after serving fewer than 2 years, proof of service is required. The DD Form 214 (which you can obtain online if you don’t have a copy) will ask you for information about your current living situation and your dates of military service.
How Long Does It Take To Receive A COE?
The length of time it takes to receive a Certificate of Eligibility varies based on different factors, but it can take up to 6 weeks. 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. If you go through a VA-approved lender like Rocket Mortgage®, we have automated systems that could help us pull your Certificate of Eligibility in the majority of cases.
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.
When Does A COE Expire?
A COE does not expire. However, 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.
What Else Should I Know About The VA 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 the term “Certificate of Eligibility” can often be found in use on collegiate websites when discussing VA education benefits connected to the GI Bill. However, the correct term for the official document detailing the education benefits belonging to an active or veteran member of the military is a “Statement of Benefits.” As far as the VA is concerned, COEs only relate specifically to home loans.
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 at Rocket Mortgage®.