Virginia Unemployment Benefits and Eligibility

In this article...
  • Find out how Virginia unemployment benefits and eligibility are administered by the VEC, including who can receive unemployment benefits and how to file a claim.

Virginia unemployment benefits and eligibility criteria are dealt with by the Virginia Employment Commission (VEC). The state's unemployment insurance program is financed through employer taxation and doesn't impact employees' tax contributions. It is designed to support unemployed people and those working reduced hours for reasons outside their control to cope financially while they look for work. 

The state of Virginia enforces various eligibility criteria to determine benefits qualification. Below, you can find out how Virginia unemployment benefits and eligibility work and how to apply. 

How Do I Get Virginia Unemployment Benefits?

You can apply for Virginia unemployment benefits through the VEC's online portal or by calling 1-886-832-2363 on weekdays between 8:15 a.m. and 4:30 p.m. You will be required to submit the following information:

  • Social Security or Alien Registration number
  • Union hall contact details (if applicable)
  • 18-month work history with your employers' contact information, start and end dates and why you no longer work for them
  • Your bank account routing and account numbers (if you wish to be paid by direct transfer)

If you apply online, you will need to use your existing Gov2Go account or create a new account if you don't already have one. The VEC does not process incomplete applications, so it's essential to gather all the necessary information before you claim. 

All benefits claimants are expected to sign up for and engage with the Virginia Workforce Connection scheme. This online program provides useful services for job seekers, including job listings, training opportunities and occupational information. You should sign up within 2 weeks of making a benefits application, even if its status is still pending. 

You will receive a Notice of Deputy's Determination document telling you whether your application was granted and how much you will receive.  If your benefits claim is approved, you will need to claim benefits each week through your Gov2Go account or over the phone at 1-800-897-5630. You must make your first weekly claim no later than 28 days after your initial application. 

How Do the Virginia Unemployment Benefits Eligibility Criteria Work?

Applicants must satisfy the VEC's monetary and non-monetary eligibility criteria to receive Virginia unemployment benefits. You are also responsible for meeting the weekly criteria to continue receiving benefits once your claim is approved. 

Monetary Eligibility Criteria

Virginia uses your wages earned during a base period to determine your monetary eligibility, which is the first four of the five calendar quarters preceding the quarter in which you initially filed. If you don't qualify using the standard base period, the VEC will use an alternate base period, which is the last four calendar quarters before the one you claimed in. You cannot request to use the alternate base period if you qualify via the standard base period, even if it would have resulted in a higher determination. 

Your earnings must total at least $3,000 within 2 quarters of the qualifying period. The wages must have been earned working for an employer contributing to the state's unemployment insurance scheme through taxes. The calculation can include wages earned outside Virginia, but it's important to tell the VEC that you worked out of state when you apply. If you haven't worked in the state of Virginia during your base period, you'll need to apply with the state in which you worked. 

Non-Monetary Eligibility Criteria

The VEC will examine your reasons for leaving your last job to decide if you were at fault. It may contact your previous employers to verify why your employment ended. 

The VEC generally accepts applications where the employee was laid off or had their hours reduced because of lack of work, but your benefits claim will likely be denied if you were fired due to poor performance or misconduct. You can't claim unemployment benefits in Virginia if you quit your job unless you had a compelling reason to do so, such as unsafe working conditions or fleeing domestic abuse. 

Weekly Eligibility Criteria

Most claimants will be expected to actively search for a job while they're receiving benefits, but employees working temporarily reduced hours and receiving partial benefits will often have this requirement waived. You will be told in your determination letter whether you need to look for work. 

You should keep detailed records of jobs you've applied for and contact with potential employers each week and provide this information during your weekly claim. Failure to provide this information could result in your benefits being denied for that week. 

You must report any payments you receive each week. This includes part-time or temporary work, holiday pay, severance pay and retirement payments from pensions or annuities. 

You may be asked to engage with the VEC during your claim period. You should respond promptly to any correspondence and attend any scheduled meetings to maintain your benefits eligibility. 

You are generally expected to be ready and able to work while claiming benefits, and you could lose your entitlement if you don't accept a suitable job offer. You should tell the VEC if you refuse a job offer and why as part of your weekly claim. However, the VEC may allow you to undertake unpaid training that makes you unavailable for work if it believes it will improve your job prospects. You should seek approval from the VEC before enrolling in any training courses. 

How Much Will I Get and for How Long?

You will not be paid during the first week following your initial claim, a period known as the waiting week. This week gives your previous employers time to object to your benefits application. 

The VEC calculates your weekly benefit rate by dividing the wages you earned during your highest-paid quarter by 26. The weekly benefit payments are capped at a maximum of $378 and a minimum of $60. The amount you receive may be less if you still have some paid work and receive partial benefits. 

How long you receive benefits depends on your base period earnings. Currently, Virginia provides unemployment benefits for between 12 and 26 weeks. 

What If I'm Denied Virginia Unemployment Benefits?

The most likely reason for being denied Virginia unemployment benefits is not satisfying the eligibility criteria. However, you have the right to appeal if you believe the decision was incorrect. 

You must appeal the VEC's decision before the appeals deadline in your determination letter. You can appeal online through the VEC website, by fax at (804) 786-8492 or in writing to the following address:

The Virginia Employment Commission
Office of First Level Appeals Room 124
P.O. Box 26441, Richmond, VA 23261-6441