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How To Get A VA Certificate Of Eligibility (COE)

April 10, 2024 5-minute read

Author: Molly Grace

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If you’re a veteran looking to buy a home, taking out a VA loan could be an excellent option for you. This government-backed loan comes with low interest rates and 100% financing. VA mortgage loans can also help eligible borrowers buy a home with zero money down. In order to take out a VA loan, you’ll need to meet mortgage lender qualifications, including minimum credit score and debt-to-income ratio (DTI) requirements.

Before you can begin the application process, you need to receive your VA loan Certificate of Eligibility (COE). A COE is a document that shows your mortgage lender that you’re eligible for a VA loan.

Let’s take a look at what exactly a VA COE is and how to get a VA Certificate of Eligibility in the home buying process.

What Is A VA Certificate Of Eligibility (COE)?

To obtain a VA loan, you’ll need to receive a VA Certificate of Eligibility, or VA COE, which verifies your status as a qualifying veteran, service member or surviving spouse. You can receive this form from the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA).

A VA loan COE proves to your lender that you meet the requirements to take out a VA loan. Some VA loan requirements include the following:

  • Credit score: The credit score you need to qualify for a VA loan varies by lender. At Rocket Mortgage®, the minimum VA loan credit score requirement is 580.
  • Debt-to-income ratio (DTI): While the VA doesn’t have a debt-to-income ratio (DTI) limit for borrowers, your mortgage lender may have specific DTI standards. At Rocket Mortgage, the DTI requirement depends on factors like your credit score and down payment amount, but you typically want to be at or below 45%.
  • Down payment: VA loans don’t require a down payment. However, you may need to meet specific lender requirements in order to qualify for a no-down-payment VA loan. For example, with Rocket Mortgage, you’ll need to have a credit score of at least 580 in order to qualify for no down payment.
  • Property type: The property you finance with a VA loan must be your primary residence and you must occupy the home within 60 days of the purchase. You can’t buy an investment property or vacation home with a VA mortgage loan.

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Who Qualifies For A VA Loan Certificate Of Eligibility?

VA loans are offered to military service members including veterans, active duty service members, National Guard and Reserve members and qualifying spouses. However, the requirements differ depending on whether you served during peacetime or active wartime.

Requirements also change if you were discharged due to a service-related disability. Here is an overview of each of these eligibility requirements:

  • Veterans: If you’ve served for at least 90 days during active wartime or 181 days during peacetime, you’re eligible for a VA COE. However, you don’t need to meet these requirements if you were discharged due to a service-related disability.
  • Current service members: If you’re currently on active duty, and have served at least 90 days continuously, you’re eligible for a VA
  • National Guard and Reserve: You’re eligible for a COE if you served at least 90 days of active duty or 6 years of honorable service. In addition, you’ll qualify if you’ve had 90 days of service under Title 32 and at least 30 days were consecutive.
  • Surviving spouses: If you’re the surviving spouse of someone who died in service, you may be eligible for a VA To qualify, the veteran must have either died in service or from a service-related disability, among other VA requirements for a spouse.

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How To Get A VA COE

You can apply for a VA COE online or by printing out the request form. You can also work directly with your lender to approve VA COE requests, though not all lenders are VA-approved lenders or service VA loans.

It’s recommended that borrowers provide proof of service when applying for a VA COE. That includes the following documentation:

  • Copy of form DD-214 (discharge or separation proof for veterans and current or former National Guard and Reserve members)
  • Statement of service signed by your commander, adjutant, or personnel officer (for active duty service members and current or former National Guard and Reserve members)
  • Report of Separation and Record of Service for each period of service (for discharged National Guard)
  • Retirement Points Statement and proof of the character of service (for discharged National Guard members)
  • Copy of your latest annual retirement points (for discharged Reserve members)
  • Proof of honorable service (for discharged Reserve members)

Why Are VA COEs Necessary For VA Home Loans?

Without a COE, your lender cannot verify that you qualify for a VA loan. According to your Certificate of Eligibility, you have a certain amount of entitlement, but what exactly does that mean?

Your VA loan entitlement is the amount the VA is willing to guarantee if you default on the loan. If you’ve never taken out a VA loan before or paid off a previous VA loan, you should receive full entitlement. Your entitlement will be reduced if you’re currently paying back a VA loan or have paid off the loan and still own the house you purchased it with.  

Do You Need A COE To Refinance A VA Loan?

If you’re looking to refinance your VA loan, you’ll need to show your lender your VA Certificate of Eligibility. This is the case for refinance options like a VA Streamline refinance (also called a VA IRRRL) and a VA cash-out refinance.

When applying to refinance, you’ll need to either provide the original COE you used to secure your VA home loan or request a new copy through your lender. Once your lender has your VA COE form, you’ll continue through the remaining steps of the refinance process.

VA Certificate Of Eligibility FAQs

Eligible borrowers need to receive a VA COE in order to take out a VA loan. Do you have additional questions about the process? Check out a list of frequently asked questions below.

My lender said it’s unable to request a VA COE for me. Why?

Here are a few reasons your lender may not be able to request a COE:

  • You don’t qualify as a surviving spouse
  • You received a discharge other than honorable
  • You’ve had foreclosures in the past

How long does it take to receive a VA COE?

It can take up to 6 weeks to receive a COE after you’ve submitted all the documentation and provided the relevant information. If you submit your VA COE through your lender or your eBenefits portal, you could receive it within minutes. You may get approved for a VA loan as soon as you receive your COE.

Does a VA Certificate of Eligibility expire?

A VA COE doesn’t expire, but there may be a situation where you need to update or receive a new COE. For instance, if you received your COE while on active duty, you may need to update it after discharge.

Does having a COE guarantee my VA loan approval?

Unfortunately, having a VA COE doesn’t guarantee VA home loan approval. A COE only authorizes your lender to review your VA loan application. Keep in mind, VA COEs are specifically for home loans and don’t apply to other VA-related benefits.

Do I need a COE for a Native American Direct Loan?

Yes, you’ll need a COE to be eligible for the Native American Direct Loan (NADL) program. The NADL program helps Native American veterans who live on federal trust land obtain a mortgage. Your tribal government will also need a Memorandum of Understanding agreement that outlines how the program will work on the reservation land.

The Bottom Line: Apply For Your VA Certificate Of Eligibility

Before you can apply for a VA loan, you’ll need to receive your VA COE. Your COE shows that you meet the service requirements to qualify for a VA home loan. Check out our VA loan application so you can make sure you have everything you need to apply.

Take the first step toward the right mortgage.

Apply online for expert recommendations with real interest rates and payments.

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Molly Grace

Molly Grace is a staff writer focusing on mortgages, personal finance and homeownership. She has a B.A. in journalism from Indiana University. You can follow her on Twitter @themollygrace.