A Certificate of Eligibility (COE) is an important document required when applying for a VA-backed home loan. It serves as proof of your eligibility status for VA loan guarantees and entitlement amounts. Lenders need a valid COE before they can process VA-guaranteed mortgage financing.
You need a COE to confirm your qualification for VA home financing as a service member, veteran, or surviving spouse. The COE specifies the maximum guaranteed loan amount you are entitled to based on your military service record and prior use of VA home benefits.
Eligibility for a COE stems from fulfilling active duty service requirements outlined by the VA. National Guard members and reservists also qualify in certain situations. Those with dishonorable discharges are ineligible.
You can obtain a COE through the VA website’s online application or by completing VA Form 26-1880 and mailing it to your VA regional office. The COE process verifies your service record. Getting pre-approved for a COE helps ensure quick loan processing when you have a home purchase contract.
Step 1: Determine if you are eligible for a COE
Several categories are eligible for a COE based on military service:
- Veterans who served minimum active duty periods, with anything but a dishonorable discharge
- Current military members with completed commitment obligations
- Select National Guard and Reserve members with 6+ years of service who qualify for retirement
- Surviving spouses of eligible veterans or servicemembers if benefits were not used previously
Consult VA guidelines to confirm your exact eligibility status. Those with any questions can call 1-877-827-3702 for assistance.
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Step 2: Gather the required documentation
Compiling key documents expedites COE processing. Have these ready to submit:
- DD-214 (Certificate of Release or Discharge from Active Duty) verifying service, dates and discharge status
- VA Form 26-1880 fully completed – this requests the COE specifically
- Proof of identity like a driver’s license or passport
- Recent pay stubs, W-2s, or tax returns showing reliable income
- Bank/investment account statements proving cash assets and down payment funds
- Disability award letters if receiving VA disability pay
Also know your desired property’s address and purchase price if possible.
Having these documents ready avoids delays from requesting additional items. The VA can process complete COE applications within 1-2 weeks.
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Step 3: Apply for a COE
You can request a COE online through the VA website, by paper mail, or through your mortgage lender’s VA specialist.
The quickest method with fastest processing is applying online:
Online COE Application
- Go to va.gov and either log into an existing account or create an account if first time user.
- In the website menu under Home Loans, click on “Request a Certificate of Eligibility (COE)” which opens the online COE wizard.
- The wizard will prompt you to enter personal information like your name, birth date, Social Security Number, contact details, and military service number.
- Next, you will input details on your military history including branch, active duty dates, separation details, character of separation, and more.
- You can then upload your required supporting documents like DD-214, photo ID, income statements etc. as prompted.
- Review all entered information thoroughly before submitting to ensure accuracy.
- Finally, click Submit at the end to send your online COE request to the VA for processing.
Following the step-by-step VA website prompts allows quick and smooth submission of your application digitally. You can contact the VA at 1-877-827-3702 for any assistance needed with the online process. Online requests see the fastest turnaround with results in 1-2 weeks.
The traditional paper mail option involves:
- Obtaining VA Form 26-1880, filling it out fully, and signing. Forms are available online or from a VA regional office.
- Compiling valid copies of all required supporting documents like military discharge paperwork, bank statements etc.
- Mailing the completed form and documentation to the VA regional loan center handling your home address area. Addresses are available on va.gov.
- Allow 3-4 weeks after mailing for COE evaluation and generation. Only use tracked mail with signature confirmation.
Through your lender:
- Contact your chosen VA-approved mortgage lender’s VA specialist to ask for assistance getting pre-approved for a COE.
- Provide the specialist all personal details, military service history, and scanned copies of your documentation electronically.
- The lending agent will take care of submitting the COE request to the VA on your behalf through their lender channels.
- The lender will contact you when the COE result comes back from the VA for next steps.
Step 4: Wait for your COE to be processed
After submitting your COE application through any method, allow the VA 2-4 weeks to evaluate eligibility and process approval. You will receive the official COE through mail or email. Processing is quicker currently for online applications.
Call 877-827-3702 if you have any questions on status during the waiting period or need an update on the COE. Timing varies based on application volumes.
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Step 5: Use your COE to apply for a VA home loan
Once approved, your COE is valid for 2 months. You can apply for a VA-backed mortgage with lenders during this period. The pre-qualification accelerates the lending process. Submit your COE along with bank statements, your sales contract, and other documents when applying for maximum efficiency.
Tips for obtaining your COE smoothly
- Contact the VA at 877-827-3702 if you need assistance determining eligibility or navigating any part of the COE application process. VA representatives can answer questions and guide you.
- Work with a qualified VA lender’s home loan specialist to have an expert manage the COE process for you. Their expertise streamlines documentation and follow-ups.
- Use the VA’s website eligibility tool to get a preliminary eligibility determination before formally applying. This allows confirming if you likely qualify.
- Have all required documents ready before starting your application to avoid delays waiting on document submissions. Double check you have everything accurate and valid.
- For online applications, ensure you have full personal and service history details on hand to complete all questionnaire sections.
- Opt for online COE requests whenever possible for much faster decision turnaround times.
- If you require financial assistance with the home purchase, proactively get pre-approved with a lender while awaiting your approved COE.
Advanced preparation and seeking assistance when needed will smooth the COE journey and set you up for VA home loan approval.
Acquiring a Certificate of Eligibility is the critical first step to access VA-backed financing that requires no down payment and offers competitive rates. By confirming your entitlement, the COE makes obtaining a VA home loan much simpler. Follow the steps covered to apply digitally, by mail, or through an experienced lender for quick processing.
Proactively get documentation ready and consider aid from VA representatives or loan officers. With your approved COE in hand, you can confidently shop lenders knowing you qualify for special VA mortgage benefits reserved for those who served our country.
Getting a Certificate of Eligibility is the first step to getting a VA home loan. By following the steps above, you can get your COE quickly and easily.