At any given time, a multitude of U.S. military personnel are deployed overseas. Although far from home, it’s possible for active-duty military abroad to get a mortgage — a VA loan or other type — and buy a home, thanks to remote capabilities. Here, we explore buying a house with a VA loan for active-duty military personnel who are currently outside the U.S.

2024 VA loan facts and figures
  • 77% of veterans own a home, a higher homeownership rate than that of the general population, according to a National Association of Realtors (NAR) analysis of 2019 Census data.
  • 16% of last year’s homebuyers were veterans, and 2% were active-duty service members, according to data by NAR.
  • The median home value of veteran-owned homes was $230,000, lower than the median value for homes owned by the general population ($242,000), according to the analysis by NAR.
  • The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) guaranteed more than 400,000 loans in 2023, with an average loan balance of $360,863.
  • 95% of military members know what a VA loan is, but just 32% know this type of loan doesn’t require a down payment, according to Navy Federal Credit Union.
  • Some 80% of VA borrowers are ineligible for conventional loans, according to Veterans United Home Loans.

Can active-duty military members get a VA loan?

Yes, active-duty military members qualify for VA loans. According to the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, you can qualify after serving for 90 consecutive days without a break in service.

That said, your active-duty VA loan could have one hurdle based on your current location. You must meet VA loan residency requirements to qualify for this home loan.

VA loan residency requirements

If you purchase a home with a VA loan, you must live in your home as a primary residence for 12 consecutive months. Obviously, doing so can be difficult if you are on active duty and deployed overseas. However, deployed active-duty servicemembers are given temporary duty status. As a result, they automatically meet the occupancy requirement.

How to apply for a VA loan while overseas

Can you use a VA loan overseas? While you’re deployed, definitely. (Note that you can’t use your VA loan to buy international property, though — the VA only guarantees loans to buy in the U.S. and U.S. territories.)

Navigating the homebuying process and applying for a loan while you’re not physically present can be tricky, but following these steps can help:

  1. Get your certificate of eligibility (COE): This proves your military service and makes you eligible for a VA loan. Fortunately, since you can apply for your COE by mail, you can do this from anywhere in the world.
  2. Find your lender: To get a VA loan overseas, you’ll need to work with a lender who offers VA loans. Most lenders have websites with the information you’ll need to get started, from loan officers’ email addresses to online loan applications. Compare offers from at least three VA lenders to find the best VA loan rate.
  3. Get a real estate agent: Since you’ll be unable to look at houses in person, you want someone you can trust to evaluate properties for you. A good real estate agent goes a long way here.
  4. Find your house: Between your agent, any friends or family you have in your desired buying area and online resources like 3D walkthroughs or video tours, you can house hunt from anywhere. Before you commit to a property, have it inspected and appraised.
  5. Buy your house: When the seller accepts your offer on the house, and the lender approves you for a VA loan, you can finalize your home purchase. Thanks to e-sign capabilities, you should be able to do everything from wherever you’re deployed.

We’ve simplified the active-duty VA loan approval and homebuying process here, but there are a few extra things to consider before you use a VA loan overseas.

Considerations when getting a VA loan while overseas

Picking a house and getting a VA loan for active-duty military requires some extra steps if you’re not physically present. As you move forward, keep these points in mind:

1. Granting a power of attorney

While deployed, you can appoint a person or entity to represent your interests in purchasing a home with a power of attorney (POA). You’ll need assistance from an attorney, legal clinic or a Judge Advocate General (JAG) to grant a POA. Any of these professionals can also recommend additional legal measures to take, depending on your situation.

In many cases, military members grant a POA to a spouse so the spouse can do tasks like signing paperwork on their behalf. As you consider who to appoint, ask these questions:

  • What powers will you allow the person to have?
  • Do you want to establish limitations?
  • How long will the POA last?
  • Can you revoke the POA at any time?
  • Can you name a backup?

You’ll also want to confirm with the closing or title agent what POA documentation they’ll need to close on your mortgage.

2. Meeting occupancy requirements

As we mentioned before, a condition of VA financing is that the borrower must live in the home.

In general, borrowers have a “reasonable time” to move in once their VA loan closes. “Reasonable” is defined as 60 days but can be longer if you can certify that you’ll live in the home by a specific date within 12 months of the closing. If you are on active duty and can’t meet the “reasonable” standard, a spouse or a dependent child can live in the home to satisfy this occupancy requirement.

However, if you’re deployed, you already meet the occupancy requirement. As outlined by the VA:

“Single or married servicemembers, while deployed from their permanent duty station, are considered to be in a temporary duty status and able to meet the occupancy requirement. This is true without regard to whether or not a spouse will be available to occupy the property before the veteran’s return from deployment.”

Pros and cons of getting a home while deployed

Getting a VA loan for active-duty military members isn’t necessarily easy, but it does come with some perks. Here are a few upsides and drawbacks to consider:

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  • Active-duty deployed servicemembers automatically meet the occupancy requirement.
  • You can prove your military service and get your COE while you’re deployed.
  • You'll come home from deployment with a house waiting for you.
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  • You won’t be able to see the house in person before you buy.
  • You’ll need to put in extra work to find a real estate agent and lender you can trust.
  • You’ll need to handle all of the home purchase and VA loan paperwork digitally.

Should you get a mortgage while overseas?

If you’re in the military and going overseas, you don’t have to give up the dream of homeownership. The VA won’t stand in your way — on the contrary, its VA loan program can make it happen, with unique benefits that can make buying a home more affordable.

Buying a home even when you’re deployed isn’t right for everyone, though. A home purchase might not make sense if you’re not sure where you’ll land after you finish your stint in the military. Maintaining the house from a distance can be challenging, too.

That said, if you want to explore an active-duty VA loan, your lender can tell you what documentation you need to verify your military status and how to apply for a mortgage. Appointing a power of attorney can help manage the home purchase on your behalf while you’re away.

FAQ about getting a mortgage while overseas

  • Yes, but only in U.S. territories.
  • Many real estate agents create video or virtual tours of homes that you can explore online. Beyond that, listing photos can help you get a feel for the property. You can also use Google Maps’s street view feature to check out the surrounding neighborhood.
  • Yes. In fact, the VA has a program specifically to help active-duty and other military personnel refinance to a lower rate. It’s called the VA Interest Rate Reduction Refinance Loan (IRRRL), also known as a VA streamline refinance.