If you want to purchase a home using a VA loan. you must prove that you have the military service to qualify for this benefit. That proof of qualification is called a certificate of eligibility.
You’ll also need a certificate to refinance from a conventional to a VA loan (but not for a streamline refinance).
The easiest way to obtain your certificate of eligibility is to have a lender do it for you. Lenders use an online system to get your certificate in minutes.
If this system doesn’t contain enough data to establish your eligibility, you’ll apply manually, which you can do online, by phone or by mail.
Service members, veterans and National Guard and reserves members can register and apply through the VA’s eBenefits portal (http://www.ebenefits.va.gov/). Or, use VA form 26-1880 to request your certificate. Your lender can submit this form online to save time.
Form 26-1880 is
a single page and should take 15 minutes to complete. It asks for basic information like your address, date of birth and Social Security number. It also asks about your service history and whether you have any previous or current VA loans.
If you are a surviving spouse who hasn’t remarried, fill out VA form 26-1817 and mail it to the VA Loan Eligibility Center in Decatur, Ga. Applications submitted by mail might take several months to be approved.
But you probably won’t need to take these steps, says mortgage broker Michael Metz of V.I.P. Mortgage in Scottsdale, Ariz.
"Most of the time, getting the certificate of eligibility is a pretty automated process," he says.
"Sometimes, particularly if there was a problem with restoring the entitlement after a previous home sale, we may have to go through an extra step or two," such as supplying documentation from the sale.
Who is getting a loan?
Source: U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, 2012 data