VA Home Loans: Eligibility Requirements & How to Apply

If you are a service member or veteran interested in buying a home, you should definitely take advantage of the benefits offered through a VA home loan. Through this program, veterans and their families can afford to buy a home with the affordable mortgage options offered by the United States Department of Veterans Affairs.

military mother

It is a good option for anyone how qualifies due to the several benefits that are offered.

What is a VA loan?

VA loans are government-backed mortgage loans that provide several benefits to active-duty service members, veterans, and eligible surviving spouses who want to purchase or refinance a home.

The Department of Veterans Affairs makes it easier to secure financing. The VA loan offers a no down payment option, which can be a significant factor when it is time to buy a home.

The loans also have less stringent credit and income requirements attached to their loans. Traditional mortgages usually require high credit and higher incomes. The VA home loan has less rigid requirements because the loan is guaranteed by the Department of Veterans Affairs.

Private lending companies provide the loans, but the Department of Veterans Affairs guarantees them. Due to this guarantee, having private mortgage insurance is not required. That is a great benefit because your overall monthly expenses for the home will be lower.

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Who is eligible for a VA home loan?

Almost every member, or veteran, of the military, reserve, and National Guard are eligible to apply. Additionally, the surviving spouses of military members that died on active duty or through a service-related injury are eligible for the loan.

For active members of the military, the eligibility starts after approximately 6 months of service. National Guard members and reservists will need to wait 6 years to apply. However, if they are called to active duty before the six-year requirement, they will be eligible after 181 days of service during peacetime or 90 consecutive days of active service during wartime.

Occupancy Requirements

Yes, VA loans typically require the borrowers to move into their new home within 60 days of purchase. Plus, you must use it as your primary residence.

There are always exceptions to these residency requirements, but circumstances will be evaluated on a case by case basis.

In several situations, spouses or minor children of service members can satisfy the residency requirement.

Underwriting Requirements

There are no minimum credit score requirements to secure a VA loan. However, private lenders off the loans, so potential borrowers will need to satisfy the requirements of their lender. Typically, lenders prefer applicants with a credit score of at least 620.

You must prove that you have enough income to pay for the loan. Additionally, lenders prefer that you do not have a heavy load of debt already.

Although there are some requirements, generally VA loans have fewer requirements than conventional loans.

VA loan limits can limit the loan amount. For 2022, the VA has capped its guaranty amount to $647,200 for most single-unit loans. There is some flexibility for counties with higher costs of living. In some areas of the country, the limit is $970,800. However, this maximum is something to be aware of if you plan to purchase a home through a VA lender soon.


With almost everything in the financial world there is a fee associated with VA home loans. The loans require a one-time funding fee that will vary based on the type of service and the amount of the down payment.

Typically, larger down payments lead to lower funding fees.

If you choose to use the VA home loan program a second time without a down payment, then the funding fee will be higher the second time.

VA loans will also have closing costs, but the VA limits which fees can be charged.

Private Mortgage Insurance

VA home loans do not require private mortgage insurance. This benefit can provide a huge benefit to borrowers.

PMI can end up costing the borrower thousands of dollars. Through the VA home loan program, you can avoid this entirely.

Remember that you will have to pay a one-time funding fee that will in some ways replace the need for PMI. It is still a worthwhile savings to avoid PMI entirely.

Is there any assistance for VA borrowers in tough times?

Yes, the VA home loans can help to provide assistance to borrowers that are struggling to pay back their loans. If a borrower is struggling to make the mortgage payments, then the VA may step in to negotiate for the borrower.

The VA has financial counselors who can assist in a renegotiation of payment plans directly with the lenders. These counselors can also help negotiate loan modifications and some alternatives to foreclosure on behalf of the borrower.

Even if you are not a VA home loan recipient, any veteran can call the Department of Veterans Affairs for assistance if they are struggling to repay their mortgage. Veterans can call 877-827-3702 for assistance and guidance through financial hardship.

How to Secure a VA home loan

Applying for a VA loan is a two-step process. If you are interested in buying a home through this program in the near future, then you should start the steps as soon as possible. It can take some time to make it through the steps, so if you have a purchase date in mind, you should start as soon as you can.

Apply for a VA Loan Certificate of Eligibility

The first step is to apply for a Certificate of Eligibility. To be eligible, you need to have served for 181 days in peacetime, 90 days in wartime, six years as a reservist or National service-related, or be a spouse of a service member that died through service-related activities.

If you know that you meet one of the requirements, then you can go ahead and apply.

You have three different ways that you can apply for the Certificate of Eligibility (COE). First, you can request a COE through your lender. Some lenders can create your COE in just a few minutes through their database.

Second, you can apply through the VA website. You will need to create an account and find the COE application page.

Finally, you can mail in your application through snail mail. Simply print out the form, mail it in, and include the proof of your eligibility.

What documents are required to secure the Certificate of Eligibility?

You should have your documentation ready when you are applying for COE. It will help to make the process go smoothly. Here’s what you will need to apply:

  • DD Form 214 – Veterans and members of the National Guard or Reserve members that were called into active service will need this form to provide eligibility. The form will show your type of service and reason for leaving.
  • A current statement of service signed by personnel office or commander of the unit – Active military and National Guard and Reserve members that were not called into full-time duty will need this form. It should include your Social Security number, date of birth, entry of date of active duty, duration of lost time, your name, and the name of the command that is providing the information.
  • NGB Form 22 – This report of separation and a record of service is required for current National Guard and Reserve members that were not called into active service.
  • NGB Form 23 – This form provides the Retirement Points Accounting and a proof of the character of service for current members of the National Guard or Reserve that were not called into full-time duty.
  • Latest annual retirement points statement and evidence of honorable service – These forms are required for discharged members of the Selected Reserve that were never in active duty.
  • VA form 26-1817 and veteran’s DD214 – If you are a surviving spouse that is receiving Dependency & Indemnity Compensation benefits, then you must provide both forms and both Social Security numbers on the forms.
  • VA for 21-534, DD214, marriage license, and death certificate – If you are a surviving spouse that does not receive Dependency & Indemnity Compensation, then you must provide all of these forms to qualify.

Apply for a VA Home Loan

Once you have obtained your COE, then you can apply for a VA home loan. You simply have to find a VA lender and then apply for the VA loan through the lender.

You can find a lender through the VA website, your own research, or through word of mouth. Make sure that you find the best offer available to you.

Can I use the VA loan in other ways?

Yes. VA loans are available for other purposes than just a home mortgage. You can also use the loan for the following purposes:

  • Adapted housing grants
  • Interest rate reduction refinance loan (IRRL)
  • Native American Direct Loan program
  • Cash-out refinance

Bottom Line

If you can apply for a VA home loan, the benefits offered will make your effort worthwhile. It is a great program that can help you secure an affordable home loan.

Sarah Sharkey
Meet the author

Sarah Sharkey is a personal finance writer who enjoys helping people make better financial decisions. Sarah enjoys traveling, hiking and reading when she is not writing.