VA Loan Eligibility Requirements
To be eligible for a VA loan, you or your spouse must meet the basic service requirements set by the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), have a valid Certificate of Eligibility (COE), and satisfy credit and income requirements.
You may be eligible for a VA loan by meeting one or more of the following requirements:
- You have served 90 consecutive days of active service during wartime, OR
- You have served 181 days of active service during peacetime, OR
- You have 6 years of service in the National Guard or Reserves, OR
- You are the spouse of a service member who has died in the line of duty or as a result of a service-related disability.
VA Loan Certificate of Eligibility (COE)
While you DO NOT need your Certificate of Eligibility (COE) in hand to apply for a VA loan, it is an important part of VA loan eligibility. Your COE provides confirmation that you qualify for VA loan benefits.
Again, it is not necessary to obtain your COE before applying for a VA loan as most VA lenders are able to instantly pull your COE through the VA’s automated system. In fact, nearly all VA loan COEs are requested electronically, and about two-thirds of certificates are issued immediately, according to the VA.
There are three basic ways you can obtain your COE for a VA loan, which include:
- Applying through a VA-approved lender
- Applying online through the VA’s eBenefits portal
- Applying by mail with VA Form 26-1880
Documents Required to Obtain a COE
Proof of service to obtain your COE often comes in the form of the DD Form 214 for regular military, and the NGB Form 22 and NGB Form 23 for National Guard and Reserves. However, this isn’t always the case. See the required forms for each service type below.
How Spouses can Obtain their COE
Getting a COE as a surviving spouse depends on whether or not you’re receiving Dependency and Indemnity Compensation.
Spouses receiving Dependency and Indemnity Compensation benefits must fill out VA Form 26-1817 (Request for Determination of Loan Guaranty Eligibility – Unmarried Surviving Spouses) and obtain a copy of the Veteran’s separation paperwork, such as a DD Form 214.
If you’re not receiving Dependency and Indemnity Compensation benefits, you’ll need to fill out VA Form 21P-534EZ (Dependency and Indemnity Compensation, Survivors Pension and/or Accrued Benefits) and submit to your state’s VA Pension Management Center (full list here).
Additionally, you’ll need to provide a copy of your marriage license, the Veteran’s death certificate (or DD Form 1300 – Report of Casualty), and the Veteran’s separation paperwork.
Separation paperwork can be requested from the U.S. National Archives and Records Administration.
How to Apply for a VA Loan
Veterans and service members don’t need to know if they’re eligible for a VA loan to start the process. You’ll get a good handle on your ability to land a VA loan during the first step – loan pre-approval.
The VA loan process typically takes 30 to 45 days once you’re under contract on a home, although every buyer’s situation is different. Applying for a VA loan doesn’t obligate you to move forward with the homebuying process.
Here’s a look at the four basic steps to applying for a VA Home Loan:
- Familiarize yourself with the broad VA loan eligibility requirements above
- Start your VA Loan application
- Obtain your Certificate of Eligibility through your lender or on your own
- Finalize your loan application and provide all necessary paperwork, including W-2s, tax returns, and additional financial information