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To obtain a VA loan, you must have a valid Certificate of Eligibility (COE). Your COE lets lenders know your eligibility status and entitlement amounts.

Key Takeaways

  • To get a VA loan, you must obtain a Certificate of Eligibility (COE).
  • A COE is not required to start the VA loan process.
  • Your lender can pull your COE, or you can access it by mail or through the eBenefits portal.

The Certificate of Eligibility (COE) is an essential part of the VA loan process. Your COE lets lenders know if you are eligible for a VA loan, if you've used a VA loan before and the status of prior VA loans.

While the COE is a required step in the VA loan process, know that you don't have to obtain one before starting the loan process. And in many cases, you may not even need to do the work to get it since most lenders have access to the VA's WebLGY system.

Below are some of the most common questions we receive about the Certificate of Eligibility. If you have additional questions about your COE, reach out and let us know.

How do I get my Certificate of Eligibility?

The main reason you need a COE is to show eligibility for a VA loan. If you're confident you meet the VA loan's service requirements, it's typically easiest to obtain your COE through your lender.

Suppose you want to get a COE because your lender can't acquire it, or you just want to see what's on the document. In that case, you can obtain your COE through the VA's eBenefits portal or by filling out a VA Form 22-1880, commonly referred to as a Request for Certificate of Eligibility. If you plan on mailing, simply fill out the form and mail it to your regional eligibility center with a copy of your discharge paperwork or statement of service. Remember, a copy is fine, don't send your original documents.

How long does it take to get a Certificate of Eligibility?

If you go through your lender or eBenefits portal, it takes just a few minutes. If you applied by mailing in VA Form 22-1880, expect 4-6 weeks before receiving the document.

Can I get a COE with other than an honorable discharge?

The Certificate of Eligibility process is tricky for Veterans with a separation status other than honorable. In this case, the VA must investigate the discharge. Discharges labeled as dishonorable are not eligible.

People who fall into this category should seek help from their local VA office, especially if you need to file an appeal to the results of your request for eligibility.

Does my Certificate of Eligibility expire?

Technically, your Certificate of Eligibility doesn't expire. However, lenders generally require a fresh COE during the loan process to ensure you have full entitlement.

Does the issuance of a Certificate of Eligibility guarantee approval of a VA loan?

No, the COE lets a lender know if you are eligible but does not automatically approve you for a VA loan. To get approved for a VA loan, you need to apply with a lender and meet their credit and income requirements.

What do the VA entitlement codes mean on the Certificate of Eligibility?

These aren't as important to you as a homebuyer. The VA entitlement codes essentially describe the period of service that made you eligible for a VA loan.

The only code not associated with a period of service is entitlement code 05. Entitlement code 05, Entitlement Restored, references homebuyers who've used a VA loan before and restored their entitlement (typically by paying off the previous VA loan).

VA Entitlement Codes on your COE

Entitlement Code Era
01 World War II
02 Korean War
03 Post-Korean War
04 Vietnam War
05 Entitlement Restored
06 Surviving Spouse
07 Spouse of POW/MIA
08 Post-World War II
09 Post-Vietnam
10 Persian Gulf War
11 Selected Reserves

Can a military spouse obtain a Certificate of Eligibility?

Yes, military spouses that qualify for VA loan benefits can obtain a COE. To get a COE as a military spouse, you need to receive Dependency & Indemnity Compensation (DIC) and complete VA Form 26-1817. After completing the form, please mail it to your regional loan office. The VA regional loan office address is listed at the bottom of the form.

If you are not receiving Dependency & Indemnity Compensation benefits, you'll need to apply through VA Form 21P-534EZ, then follow the steps above.

What can I do if I lost my discharge papers?

Not to worry, in most cases, you can obtain your discharge paperwork from the government's National Archives portal.

If you cannot obtain your service records from the National Archives, you may be required to file a Certificate in Lieu of Lost or Destroyed Discharge. Your nearest VA office can assist in obtaining lost or destroyed records.

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