Zero Down Home Loan Eligibility

How to Get a VA Loan Certificate of Eligibility

To apply for a loan through the VA Home Loan Program, you’ll need a certificate of eligibility (COE) from the Department of Veterans Affairs. This document, which shows lenders that you qualify to apply for a VA home loan, is fairly easy to request. However, getting your COE does not guarantee you’ll be approved for…
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To apply for a loan through the VA Home Loan Program, you’ll need a certificate of eligibility (COE) from the Department of Veterans Affairs.

This document, which shows lenders that you qualify to apply for a VA home loan, is fairly easy to request.

However, getting your COE does not guarantee you’ll be approved for a home loan; potential homeowners must still meet additional requirements.

With that in mind, here are the steps you’ll need to take to get your COE and demonstrate your VA loan eligibility.

What Is a Certificate of Eligibility?

A certificate of eligibility, or COE, is a document that confirms your eligibility for a VA home loan. You can also think of it as step one in your VA loan application process.

The COE shows private lenders that you have served the required amount of time in the U.S. military to obtain a VA loan. It also shows if you’re exempt from paying the VA funding fee.

You must meet certain eligibility requirements as listed on the Department of Veterans Affairs website to get a COE.

How to Get a VA Certificate of Eligibility

Before you request a certificate of eligibility, you’ll need to submit a copy of your discharge papers, showing you were honorably discharged, or a copy of your DD Form 214, which proves military service.

Before you proceed with the application, calculate the amount of time that you served to see if you meet the requirements.



How to Get Your Certificate of Eligibility

You can apply for a VA certificate of eligibility in three different ways:

  1. Apply online at the Veteran’s Information Portal, which lists all the acceptable documents to upload as proof of your service.
  2. Apply through a VA-approved lender if you wish to complete the full VA loan application in one place.
  3. Apply by mail by printing and mailing in VA Form 26-1880 from the Veteran’s Information Portal. If you are unable to print a copy of the form, you can call 1-888-244-6711 to request one.

VA Loan Certificate of Eligibility Entitlement Codes

Beyond proving your eligibility, the certificate of eligibility provides your entitlement code.

Your COE will include an entitlement code that ranges from 01 to 11, indicating the period in which you served or the status of your previous VA loans, if applicable.

If your code is 05, signifying your entitlement has been restored, you may pay a higher VA funding fee than first-time borrowers.

VA Approval Requirements

Once you’ve completed step one and you’ve received your COE, the VA has a few additional stipulations.

While the VA has not set a minimum income requirement, applicants must demonstrate a steady and stable income that suggests their ability to repay the loan in their current financial state while balancing their other expenses.

The VA has a residual income requirement. This assessment tool looks at the amount of leftover, or residual, money an applicant has at the end of the month.

This minimum differs from region to region and depends on family size, but they are reasonable for the average person.

Private Lender Requirements

While the VA may approve your application based only on the requirements above, the private lender providing your loan may have a few more expectations.

Requirements differ across the board, but you can expect that some VA lenders will look at your credit score to determine your likelihood of paying your mortgage.

That score could impact the types of rates you receive. Additionally, your lenders may look at your debt-to-income ratio to get a clearer picture of your finances.

Best VA Loan Companies

With a plethora of lenders to choose from, we’ve compiled our top picks for the best VA loan companies, highlighting their best features, the rates and loan amounts they offer and how they can benefit you.

We’ve also provided you with a rate tool that can give you quick estimates of the loan rates you can expect with each lender.

Each of the providers on the list has demonstrated a commitment to giving back to the military and seeing veterans succeed in their lives. The top three are dedicated solely to military service members.

Once you have your COE in hand, you can start shopping for rates from these providers.

Getting Your COE: The Bottom Line

If you need help with completing any of the forms or have a question about eligibility requirements to apply for a VA loan certificate of eligibility, you can contact the Department of Veteran Benefits for help.

You can also contact an authorized VA loan lender who can help you navigate through the process and potentially prequalify you for a VA loan.


Equal Housing Opportunity

Equal Housing Opportunity. The Department of Veterans Affairs affirmatively administers the VA Home Loan Program by assuring that all Veterans are given an equal opportunity to buy homes with VA assistance. Federal law requires all VA Home Loan Program participants – builders, brokers and lenders offering housing for sale with VA financing – must comply with Fair Housing Laws and may not discriminate based on the race, color, religion, sex, handicap, familial status, or national origin of the Veteran.

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About Ryan Guina

Ryan Guina is The Military Wallet's founder. He is a writer, small business owner, and entrepreneur. He served over six years on active duty in the USAF and is a current member of the Illinois Air National Guard.

Ryan started The Military Wallet in 2007 after separating from active duty military service and has been writing about financial, small business, and military benefits topics since then. He also writes about personal finance and investing at Cash Money Life.

Ryan uses Personal Capital to track and manage his finances. Personal Capital is a free software program that allows him to track his net worth, balance his investment portfolio, track his income and expenses, and much more. You can open a free Personal Capital account here.

Featured In: Ryan's writing has been featured in the following publications: Forbes, Military.com, US News & World Report, Yahoo Finance, Reserve & National Guard Magazine (print and online editions), Military Influencer Magazine, Cash Money Life, The Military Guide, USAA, Go Banking Rates, and many other publications.

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