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VA Certificate of Eligibility (COE): Where to Find It and Why You Need It to Buy a Home With a VA Loan

Your VA certificate of eligibility (COE) is what lenders use to determine your eligibility for a VA home loan.

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Your VA COE tells lenders whether you're eligible

In the market to buy a home? VA loans provide some of the best home buying deals available.

Qualified veterans and surviving spouses are eligible for loans with a 0% down payment*, flexible credit requirements, and no mortgage insurance.

So how do you get your hands on a VA mortgage? You’ll need to start by requesting your VA home loan certificate of eligibility (COE).

The COE tells lenders whether you’re eligible for a VA loan.Fortunately, getting your COE is fairly straightforward.

What's in this Article?

What is a certificate of eligibility (COE)?
What else does the COE tell you?
Example COE
Where to find your certificate of eligibility
Other documents needed for a VA loan
VA loan eligibility requirements
VA loan FAQs

What is a certificate of eligibility (COE)?

The VA home loan certificate of eligibility is issued by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) and tells lenders whether you can take out a VA home loan.

Getting your COE is the first step in qualifying for a VA loan, because lenders can’t approve a VA mortgage without it.

The COE details the level of VA home loan benefit a veteran or active-duty servicemember is eligible for, based on their available entitlement and length of military service.

There are three levels of loan entitlement:

  • Full entitlement: You can buy a home with 0% down. As of 2020, VA borrowers with full entitlement are not subjected to loan limits either.
  • Partial entitlement: If you used your entitlement to buy a previous home and are still paying off that mortgage, your COE may show partial entitlement. You may need a down payment, depending how much of your entitlement is left.
  • No entitlement: If your COE indicates “no entitlement,” it doesn’t mean you can never receive entitlement again. Typically, a COE shows no entitlement if you used it to buy a home already and still owe on the mortgage. Once that loan is paid off, you can request to have your entitlement reinstated.

The length of service requirements for your COE vary based on when you served. If you were discharged early because of a service-related injury, the minimum service requirement may be waived.

Service PeriodDatesActive-duty requirement
World War II9/16/40-
90 total days*
Post-World War II7/26/47-
181 continuous days* 
Korean War6/27/50-
90 total days*
Post-Korean War2/1/55-
181 continuous days* 
Vietnam War8/5/64-
90 total days*
Served in the
Republic of Vietnam
90 total days*
Post-Vietnam War
(May 8, 1975-Sept. 7, 1980
181 continuous days* 
Served as an officer5/8/75-
181 continuous days* 
Unnamed era9/8/80-
24 continuous months or the full period during which you were called to active duty (minimum 181 days)**
Served as an officer10/17/81-
24 continuous months or the full period during which you were called to active duty (minimum 181 days)**
Gulf War8/2/90-
24 continuous months or the full period during which you were called to active duty (minimum 90 days).***
Separated from service
after Sept. 7, 1980
24 continuous months or the full period during which you were called to active duty (minimum 181 days).***
Separated from service
and served as an officer
24 continuous months or the full period during which you were called to active duty (minimum 181 days).***
Currently on active dutyn/a90 continuous days
National Guard/Selected
90 days active duty or 6 years and now honorably discharged, placed on retired list, transferred to Standby/Ready after honorable service, or continue to serve in Selected Reserve

*Eligible if served fewer days but discharged due to service-connected disability
**No allowance for fewer service days if discharged due to service-connected disability
***Eligible with minimum days if you were discharged due to a government decision, reduction in force, or a hardship. Eligible with less than minimum days only if separated due to service-connected disability.

Any qualifying veteran or active-duty servicemember can apply for a COE, including those who have served in the following branches of the military: 

  • Army 
  • Navy 
  • Marine Corps
  • Air Force 
  • Reservists
  • Coast Guard 
  • National Guard members
  • U.S. Military, Air Force, or Coast Guard Academy cadets 
  • U.S. Naval Academy midshipmen 
  • National Oceanic & Atmospheric Association (NOAA) officers 
  • Public Health Service officers 

You may also qualify for a VA loan if you are the surviving spouse of a servicemember who died while serving, is missing in action or a prisoner of war, or who died from a service-related injury. Only surviving spouses who have not remarried qualify for a VA loan. 

What else does the COE tell you?

Here’s what your loan officer will look for on your COE: 

1. Funding fee exempt status: Borrowers who have a service-related disability may show an “exempt” status on their COE, which means you don’t have to pay the upfront funding fee, which is typically 2.3% of the loan amount. If your COE status shows “non-exempt,” you will be responsible for the funding fee.

2. Entitlement code: The entitlement code relates to your time of service and whether you served during war or peacetime. Entitlement Code 10, for example, means you served during the Persian Gulf War. Entitlement Code 5 means you’ve used a VA loan previously, so you’ll owe a higher funding fee this time, typically 3.6% of the loan amount.

Entitlement CodeERA
1World War II
2Korean War
3Post-Korean War
4Vietnam War
5Entitlement Restored
6Un-remarried Surviving Spouse
7Spouse of POW/MIA
8Post-World War II
10Persian Gulf War
11Selected Reserves

3. Previous VA loans: If you’ve taken out a VA loan before, it will be listed under “Prior Loans Charged to Entitlement.” The COE will provide the loan amount, date of the loan, the amount of entitlement used, and whether the loan is active.

Example COE

Sample VA Loan COE

Where to find your certificate of eligibility

You have two options for requesting your COE:

1. Request it through the VA ebenefits website.

2. Ask your lender to look it up when you apply for your mortgage (takes just a few minutes).

The second option will likely be the easiest for you, though you may need to provide additional documentation before the loan is approved.

If possible, have all of your service-related documents on hand so there’s no delay in processing.

Other documents needed for a VA loan

Expect to provide the following documents when you apply for a VA loan:

  • Form 26-1880: Request for COE (download here)
  • DD-214: Discharge and Record of Separation document for veterans
  • Commanding Officer Statement of Service: Confirms service and expected length of service for active-duty servicemembers
  • Verification of child care expenses: Underwriting will need to see a list of childcare expenses for your dependent children. If you or your spouse are stay-at-home parents, or you have a relative who watches the children for free, you’ll have to sign a statement saying you don’t have monthly childcare expenses

If you are a surviving spouse and you receive Dependent and Indemnity Compensation (DIC), you’ll need the veteran’s DD-214 form, as well as VA form 26-1817, which is a request to determine if you’re eligible for the VA loan guaranty.

Surviving spouses who do not receive DIC must file VA Form 21P-534EZ to request those benefits. They must also provide the veteran’s DD-214 and death certificate and their marriage license.

VA loan eligibility requirements

You may be eligible for a VA loan as long as you meet the active duty service requirements and received an honorable discharge.

You’ll need to meet income and credit requirements as well, and you’ll need to buy a VA-approved home.

Here’s what lenders will look for:

  • Full entitlement to qualify for 100% financing
  • Credit score of at least 580-620
  • Property must meet VA safety and livability standards
  • Property must be your primary residence

VA loans are a solid choice if you qualify because of the flexible requirements, plus you’ll likely get a lower interest rate than you would for another type of mortgage loan.

If you’re not sure whether you qualify or what your entitlement status is, a VA-approved lender can look up your COE and preapprove you for a home. They can also offer guidance on the types of properties you can buy and what you can expect from the VA loan process.

VA loan FAQs

How do I get my VA certificate of eligibility?

You can request a COE VA form through the VA ebenefits portal. A VA-approved lender can also look it up quickly during the preapproval process.

What is a VA certificate of eligibility?

A VA certificate of eligibility (COE) shows that you are eligible for a VA home loan. The COE reflects your service history and whether you have partial or full entitlement.

How long does it take to get a certificate of eligibility from the VA?

The fastest — and simplest — way to get your COE is to ask your loan officer to look it up when you apply for your mortgage.

How can I get my VA certificate of eligibility online?

You can request your COE through the VA’s ebenefits portal, or you can ask your lender to pull your COE for you once you’re ready to apply for a loan.

Does a VA certificate of eligibility expire?

Your COE does not expire. But if you received a COE while on active duty, you will need to request a new one after you’re discharged.

Can you have two VA loans at once?

The short answer: yes, as long as both are purchased as primary residences. This may be the case if you bought a house with a VA loan but received transfer orders to another city and need to move before you sell your current home. Whether you qualify for a second VA mortgage while paying down the first depends on how much entitlement you have left, as listed on your certificate of eligibility. 

A great mortgage for veterans

VA loans are one of the best home loan deals around because of the 0% down payment and lenient credit terms.

Whether you are a first-time homebuyer or need a new home as you transition to a new base, a VA loan can help you get there.

Some references sourced within this article have not been prepared by Fairway and are distributed for educational purposes only. The information is not guaranteed to be accurate and may not entirely represent the opinions of Fairway.

*A down payment is required if the borrower does not have full VA entitlement or when the loan amount exceeds the VA county limits. VA loans subject to individual VA Entitlement amounts and eligibility, qualifying factors such as income and credit guidelines, and property limits. Fairway is not affiliated with any government agencies. These materials are not from VA, HUD or FHA, and were not approved by VA, HUD or FHA, or any other government agency.

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