What is a Certificate of Eligibility for a VA Loan?

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Other than your VA loan application, the VA Certificate of Eligibility is the most important piece of paper in your loan file. Perhaps even more so because without the Certificate of Eligibility, your loan application won’t even be looked at, much less be approved. What is a Certificate of Eligibility for a VA loan?

What is a Certificate of Eligibility?

Simply put, it’s the only validation from the Department of Veterans Affairs that you qualify for the VA home loan benefit. No other piece of documentation can replace the Certificate of Eligibility. Not even your DD-214 showing who you are, your service dates, and whether or not you were honorably discharged can substitute for the Certificate of Eligibility. What is included on the certificate?

What Information is Included?

The basic information is about you: who you are, your social security number, where and when you served and in which branch, and your date of birth. Your initial entitlement amount is $36,000, and if you’ve used your benefit before, the previous VA loan will be listed along with the amount of entitlement used in the past. If the entitlement has not been used, the document will state that the VA will guarantee an amount equal to 25 percent of the loan amount up to the Freddie Mac limit for a single family home.

How Do I Get My Certificate of Eligibility?

To get the Certificate of Eligibility, you can contact your regional VA service center. You may request the certificate by mail, or the easiest “self-serve” method is to log onto the VA portal. To request your Certificate of Eligibility on your own, you will need a copy of the DD-214 and complete the DOD form 26-1880, a request for the Certificate of Eligibility. When completing the 26-1880, the information must be exactly like the information taken from your discharge papers. Can’t find your discharge papers? Then you’ll need to request a duplicate directly from the VA. Your VA lender can’t help you with obtaining a copy of your DD-214, only you can.

However, once you apply for a VA mortgage with a VA lender, the lender can order your Certificate of Eligibility on your behalf electronically and receive the certificate in a matter of seconds. For most, this is the preferred method and certainly the easiest. Approved VA lenders have access to the VA’s Automated Certificate of Eligibility, or ACE.

If you obtain the VA Certificate of Eligibility on your own, you will notice there is no mention of a lender on the document. The certificate identifies you and you only. When you select your VA lender, you will provide a copy of the certificate for the loan file. Should you decide to cancel your loan, you will still have a copy of the certificate with you. If the VA lender assists you in obtaining your VA Certificate of Eligibility, if you transfer your loan to another lender, the certificate can’t be transferred to the new lender, the new lender will use the same electronic retrieval system to obtain a new certificate.

Getting Your Certificate of Eligibility