An array of financial prep work must take place before it’s time to sign that mortgage, and buyers using a VA-backed loan will have another layer of forms to process.

But before you and your lender can get down to business, you’ll need to provide a Certificate of Eligibility, showing you’re qualified to participate in the VA loan program. There’s a full breakdown of the process at the VA website, but here are some of the basics:

1. Gather your paperwork. For most VA loan applicants, a DD 214 will suffice. Active-duty service members will need a statement of service signed by their unit commander, personnel office or adjutant. Certain former reserve-component members and surviving spouses will need other forms to procure their certificate; details are here.

2. Get online. If you’re registered with the EBenefits site, you’ll be able to request your certificate online here. You may also be able to register for an EBenefits account at that link, then complete the application process.

3. Talk to your lender. Many lenders have access to a web portal known as Web LGY, which allows them to confirm your eligibility and obtain a certificate. Surviving spouses can fill out VA Form 26-1817 and take it to their lender for processing through this system (PDF here).

4. Go old school. If you’re having trouble with the online process and with your lender, you can obtain a certificate the old-fashioned way: Print out a copy of VA Form 26-1880 (PDF here) and mail it to: VA Loan Eligibility Center, Attn: COE (262), PO Box 100034, Decatur, GA 30031.

Questions about forms or other parts of the process? You can reach a VA loan technician by phone at 877-827-3702.

Kevin Lilley is the features editor of Military Times.

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