Virginia Unemployment Benefits and Eligibility

Eligibility Team
Researcher & Writer
April 10, 2020

COVID-19 UPDATE: Because the coronavirus pandemic has left so many Americans jobless, the federal government has given states more flexibility in granting unemployment benefits. If you have questions about whether you’re eligible for unemployment benefits read our COVID-19 Unemployment Benefits and Insurance FAQ and check out Virginia's claimant handbook.

A guide to unemployment benefits in Virginia

The Virginia Employment Commission (VEC) administers the state’s unemployment insurance program, which provides protection against loss of wages to individuals who become unemployed through no fault of their own. To qualify, individuals must meet all eligibility requirements.

Benefits are paid through taxes on employers covered under the Virginia Unemployment Compensation Act. No part of the employer tax is deducted from an employee’s earnings.

How do I apply for unemployment benefits in Virginia?

You can file an initial claim online on the VEC website.

To file a claim by phone, call the Customer Contact Center telephone number at 1-866-832-2363, 8:15 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., Monday–Friday.

Before filing an initial claim, you will need to have several pieces of information available:

  • Social Security number
  • Home address
  • Mailing address
  • Telephone number
  • A valid email address
  • The reason why you lost your last job
  • If you are not a US. citizen, you will need an Alien Registration Number.
  • If you were on active duty in the U.S. military in the past 18 months, you will need DD Form 214, Member 4.
  • If you worked for the federal government in the past 18 months, you will need Standard Form 8 and Standard Form 50.
  • You will need all of your employment information for the past 18 months, including all contact information and dates worked.
  • Any additional wages you have received from vacation, severance or other sources
  • Other states where you have worked in the past 18 months
  • If you choose to have your payments made by direct deposit, you will also need to supply appropriate information for that option (bank name and address, account and routing number).

Newly unemployed?

Several online services—like FlexJobs, 360training, or MyPerfectResume—can help you find work-from-home jobs, build a better resume, or earn training certifications.

How to file an initial claim

By phone:

Call the Customer Contact Center telephone number at 1-866-832-2363, 8:15 am to 4:30 pm, Monday – Friday.


How to file a weekly request for payment


By phone:

To file weekly claims by phone, call the VEC’s Voice Response System (VRS) at 1-800-897-5630.

You will be given instructions on how to use the VRS when you apply for benefits. Follow the instructions very carefully. The instructions below apply to both Internet weekly requests for payment and VRS weekly requests for payment.

File your weekly request for payment of benefits correctly and accurately, as soon as the week has passed. You will not be paid benefits, even if you are qualified and eligible to receive them, if you fail to file your weekly request for payment.

Remember that the claim week does not end until after midnight on Saturday of the week being claimed and will not be available to you to file until after that time.

Your first weekly request for payment of benefits must be filed with the VEC after the week in which you file your application for benefits ends, but no later than 28 days after the date you filed your application.

How unemployment works in Virginia

Here’s a quick overview of how the unemployment insurance process works in Virginia.

  1. Before you apply, make sure you meet all benefit requirements. Virginia has three primary requirements: (1) Monetary eligibility,  (2) Separation qualification, and (3) Weekly eligibility.
  2. If you meet all requirements, then you can apply for unemployment insurance. You can do so, either by telephone at 1-866-832-2363 or online.
  3. Determine the amount of your benefit. You will be mailed a Monetary Determination letter that explains the amount of your benefits and how long you can collect them. You can also check the benefit table to see what your benefits will be. The amount of your unemployment insurance benefit is calculated by the amount of wages paid to you during a one-year period called a Base Period.
  4. Decide how you want to be paid. In Virginia, you can receive benefits either by direct deposit or through a debit card.  Funds are available 2 days after your claim is processed.
  5. Conduct an ongoing job search. Virginia requires all benefit recipients to look for full-time work while drawing benefits. As part of this, you are required to register through the Virginia Workforce Connection website or in person at any VEC workforce center.
  6. You can file an appeal if you are denied benefits. If you are denied or disqualified from receiving benefits, you have the right to file an appeal. Instructions will be mailed as part of any denial notification you may receive.

Unemployment insurance eligibility requirements

There are three general requirements you must meet to ensure you are eligible for unemployment benefits in Virginia.

  1. Monetary eligibility
  2. Separation qualification
  3. Weekly eligibility

Monetary Eligibility

To qualify for benefits, you must have earned enough wages in your base period.  The amount of wages you earned will determine not only if you are eligible, but how much your benefit amount will be and how long you will receive benefits, which can be anywhere from 12 to 26 weeks.

To get the maximum, a person must have earned at least $18,900.01 during two quarters in their base period. Benefits are paid for 12 to 26 weeks, depending on the amount. The higher the salary, the longer the benefits.

The regular base period consists of the first four of the last five completed calendar quarters prior to the effective date of your claim. If you do not have enough wages to qualify for benefits during the regular base period, you may monetarily qualify under the alternate base period that includes wages from the last four completed calendar quarters at the time your claim is filed. If you qualify monetarily, your claim remains in effect for one year. This period is called a benefit year.

To see how your earnings will translate into weekly unemployment insurance benefits, check out this benefit table.

After you file an initial claim, you will receive a Monetary Determination that contains your base period earnings, weekly benefit amount, and the maximum number of weeks you may receive benefits. Benefit payments last one year from the effective date of your claim, or until the benefits exhaust, whichever comes first.

Review the letter carefully, and if you believe your base period wages are not correct, you should contact the VEC Customer Contact Center at 1-866-832-2363 during normal business hours of 8:15 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., Monday through Friday.  You will be asked to supply proof of your correct wages by submitting pay stubs, W-2 forms, and other documentation.

If you qualify monetarily, your claim remains in effect for one year. This period is called a benefit year.

Separation qualification

Even if you have enough wages to qualify to receive benefits, you must still qualify by having a valid reason why you were separated from your last employer.

If you were let go for any reason other than lack of work, the VEC will gather facts from you and your employer concerning your separation. You will be contacted by a VEC deputy and be given an opportunity to present your information and review that of your employer.

You will be disqualified if the deputy determines you quit your job without good cause (such as being asked to perform hazardous or illegal work), or you were fired from your job for misconduct in connection with your work (i.e., theft, embezzlement, etc.).

Weekly eligibility

After it has been determined that you have met the wage and separation criteria, you will still need to meet eligibility requirements on a weekly basis to continue to claim benefits. Unemployment benefits are claimed on a calendar week basis beginning on Sunday and ending at midnight on the following Saturday.

Weekly eligibility requirements include the following:

  1. Conducting an ongoing job search. The Virginia Unemployment Compensation Act requires that claimants provide the name of the employers contacted for work, so it is essential that you keep good records as you will be asked to present them to the VEC.
  2. You must report the refusal of any job offers and be prepared to substantiate the reason why you rejected the offer. Certain criteria, such as pay, distance, and other factors may allow you to refuse an offer, but still keep your benefits.
  3. File your weekly request for payment of benefits in a timely manner. File your claim for benefits on the VEC website or over the telephone with the VEC Customer Contact Center. You also must call the VEC regarding your claim when directed to do so.
  4. Be unemployed or only partially employed. If you did not work and did not earn any money, then you are considered unemployed. If you worked less than full time and earned less than your weekly benefit amount, you can still collect a portion of your benefits.
  5. You must report all work that you performed during the week and the money that you earned, whether you were actually paid or not. Earnings also include vacation, severance, and holiday pay. Report the total amount of the gross earnings/wages before taxes and other employer deductions are made. Do not report net earnings/wages. If you receive a pension, retirement, worker’s compensation, or other annuity, it will be deducted from your weekly benefit amount if it is paid by your most recent employer of 30 days or 240 hours or more, or from any employer in the base period of your claim. These payments will be deducted dollar-for-dollar from your weekly benefit amount. If your weekly pension, retirement, or annuity equals or exceeds your weekly benefit amount, you will be ineligible for unemployment benefits for that week.
  6. You must be able to work and available for work with no undue restrictions on your availability for work, such as illness, childcare, or transportation issues.
  7. Within 5 days of filing for unemployment insurance benefits, you must register for work through the Virginia Workforce Connection website or in person at any VEC workforce center.
  8. To avoid denial of benefits, you must file your first weekly claim within 28 days of the date you filed your initial/new claim.


How much will I be paid?

Weekly unemployment benefits in Virginia range from $60 to $378 per week and are based on your wages. The more you made, the higher the payout.  Benefits are paid between 12 and 26 weeks, depending on your situation.

To get the maximum, a person must have earned, during two quarters of their base period, at least $18,900.01.

You will also get a monetary determination letter after you file your initial claim that will give you complete details of your expected benefits. Once you establish a claim that reflects all earnings in covered employment during your base period, the amount you qualify for remains the same for one year and is available to you until your maximum benefit amount or your benefit year is exhausted, whichever comes first.

When and how will I be paid?

Your first payment will be issued to you after you have served a waiting week and are eligible to receive benefits for the second week claimed.

However, Virginia has temporarily suspended the one-week waiting period due to COVID-19. 

When you make an initial application for benefits, you will be able to select either direct deposit into your personal checking or savings account, or you will be able to collect benefits with a Virginia Debit Mastercard.  Funds will be loaded on to the card which can be used any place where debit cards are allowed as a method of payment. It takes 2 business days for your funds to be deposited into your account after your weekly claim has been processed.  You can also change your payment method at any time by logging on to your account on the VEC website or by calling 1-800-897-5630.

When you file an initial claim, you can expect your first payment within 14 calendar days after you file your weekly request for payment of benefits. You may not receive your payment on the same day of the week each time you file your request for payment. Timely payments depend on you meeting all weekly requirements as well.

However, no payment will be issued if you have a separation or able and available issue on your claim, until those issues have been addressed and appropriate action taken on them.

If you don’t receive an anticipated payment, contact the VEC Customer Contact Center.  However, you should wait at least 5 days after you file your request.

Benefits you receive are subject to federal income tax. At your request, the VEC will withhold federal tax from your unemployment benefits. You will be mailed a statement, Form 1099-G, of benefits paid to you during the year. It is your responsibility to inform the VEC of any changes in your address and to include unemployment benefits received on your annual tax return and pay any tax due.

In Virginia, unemployment benefits are not considered taxable income on your state return.

Do I have to look for a job while collecting benefits?

You must conduct an ongoing and active job search while you are collecting benefits. As part of this, you are required to register through the Virginia Workforce Connection website or in person at any Virginia Career Works career center. Unless advised otherwise, you must register within 5 days of filing your application for benefits. If you do not register, you could be ineligible to receive unemployment benefits until you do register.

The VEC will ask you to provide information on your work search activities to substantiate your claim, so it is imperative that you keep records of each job contact made, including, name, address, phone number, contact person, date of contact, result of the contact, and other related information.

Eligibility Team
Written by
Eligibility Team
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