At NerdWallet, we strive to help you make financial decisions with confidence. To do this, many or all of the products featured here are from our partners. However, this doesn’t influence our evaluations. Our opinions are our own.

The VA certificate of eligibility is a document that tells a lender you meet the military service or surviving spouse requirements to get a VA home loan.

You can start shopping for VA loans without a certificate of eligibility from the Department of Veterans Affairs, but you’ll need one before the home loan can close.

Getting one can be quick and easy. Here’s how.

» MORE: Learn about VA loan requirements

Requesting a certificate of eligibility

If you’re an eligible active-duty military member, veteran or National Guard or Reserve member, you can get a COE by:

The quickest way is often through a VA-approved lender. Most VA mortgage lenders have access to an internet-based application that can issue a certificate of eligibility on the spot if there’s sufficient information in the system’s database.

That capability can simplify and expedite the process for many VA borrowers, says Kevin Parker, vice president of field mortgage originations at Navy Federal Credit Union.

» MORE: See NerdWallet picks for the best VA mortgage lenders

Surviving spouses can download a “request for determination of loan guarantee eligibility” form and take that to a lender for processing, according to the VA website. If you can’t print the form, you can call 1-877-827-2702 to request one.

What you need to get a VA COE

In many cases, lenders can get the certificate of eligibility through the VA database simply by entering the borrower’s personal information.

But in some instances, a document, such as a copy of a veteran’s discharge or separation papers, is needed for verification, Parker says. In that case, a lender could send the required documents on the borrower’s behalf for the VA to process the request.

The type of documents you may need to show to get a certificate of eligibility depends on whether you’re a veteran, service member, current or discharged National Guard or Reserve member. Here’s what the VA website says you need.

Evidence to get a certificate of eligibility

Source: Department of Veterans Affairs

Financial News Go