How Long Do I Have to Serve in the Military to Get a VA Loan?

Marcus Marion, CMA™ 2 weeks ago 0 8

Summary: Active-duty military members typically have to serve at least 90 consecutive days to get a VA loan. National Guard and Reserve members usually need six years of service, unless they’ve completed active-duty service lasting 90 days or more.

“How long do I have to serve in the military in order to qualify for a VA home loan? What’s the minimum length of service needed to get a VA loan?”

These are two of the most common questions people have about VA-guaranteed mortgage loans. And it’s easy to understand why. The eligibility requirements can be a bit complicated for someone who is not familiar with the program.

So let’s see if we can simplify things a bit.

How Long You Have to Serve to Get a VA Loan

As mentioned above, active-duty military members typically qualify for VA mortgage financing after 90 days of continuous service. National Guard and Reserve members typically qualify after completing six years of regular service, or after 90 days of “non-training active-duty service.”

These guidelines come from the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs.

This VA loan program imposes other qualification criteria as well, in addition to the length of service. You need to obtain a Certificate of Eligibility and other paperwork in order to apply. But this rest of this article will focus on how long you have to serve in the military for a VA loan.

Active-Duty Military

The time-in-service requirements for active-duty military members are the most straightforward and easy to understand. Basically, if you have served in the active-duty military for at least 90 continuous days, you’ve likely served long enough to get a VA loan.

Active-duty military members also have the benefit of working with their personnel office or adjutant to determine eligibility and to obtain the necessary paperwork. And that steady paycheck you receive as an active-duty member can help you qualify for mortgage financing.

So you don’t need to serve for very long to get a VA loan, if you’re currently on active duty. Ninety continuous days without a break in service is usually enough to check the box.

National Guard

Let’s move on to the National Guard. How long do National Guard members have to serve, in order to get a VA loan?

The rules here are a bit more complicated. But don’t worry. We’ll break it down line by line to make it easier to understand.

When it comes to qualifying for a VA loan, there are basically two different groups of National Guard members:

1. Served between August 1990 and the present

If you served in the National Guard between August 2, 1990 and the present, you could be eligible for a VA loan after serving at least 90 days of active duty.  The Department of Veterans Affairs refers to this timeframe as the “Gulf War period to present.”

2. Served during any other time period

If you were in the National Guard for any other timeframe, like before the date range mentioned above, you could qualify for a VA loan if:

  • You served for 90 days or more of non-training active-duty service, or…
  • You served 90 days or more of active-duty service including at least 30 consecutive days, or…
  • You completed six years in the National Guard with an honorable discharge or being placed on the retired list.

Reserve Members

Moving on to the Reserves. How long do you have to serve as a Reserve military member to get a VA loan?

The rules here are similar to the National Guard, in the sense that there are two categories determined by the timeframe when you served. But the specifics are a little different for the second group, so let’s break them down one at a time.

1. Served between August 1990 and the present

If you served for at least 90 days of active duty, you meet the minimum service requirement.

2. Served during any other time period

You meet the minimum active-duty service requirement if you served for: 

  • 90 days or more of non-training active-duty service, or
  • Six creditable years in the Selected Reserve 

Also, at least one of the following conditions must be true:

  • You were discharged honorably, or
  • You were placed on the retired list, or
  • You were transferred to the Standby Reserve or an element of the Ready Reserve other than the Selected Reserve after service characterized as honorable, or
  • You continue to serve in the Selected Reserve

We adapted this information from the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs website, rearranging it to make it easier to understand. To learn more about these requirements, including how long you need to serve in the military, refer to the VA.gov website or see the resources listed below.

How and Where to Learn More

If you have questions about the service requirements or other eligibility criteria for VA loans, the Department of Veterans Affairs encourages you to call the regional loan center at 877-827-3702 (TTY: 711). They’re typically available Monday through Friday, 8:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. EST.

The regional loan center can answer other questions you have about VA home loans as well, in addition to the length of service requirements.

You can also refer your questions to an approved mortgage broker or loan officer. They can help you determine whether or not you are eligible for a VA loan, based on how long you have served in the military. An approved lender can also help you obtain your Certificate of Eligibility.

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