Starting VISTA Service

*** Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, some aspects of the VISTA Member Orientation may be adjusted. For information about the impact of the coronavirus on the VISTA program, please be sure to check our Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) at ***

Welcome to AmeriCorps VISTA!

As a Volunteer In Service To America (VISTA), you are joining the movement for social justice and economic equity. Before you begin your VISTA service, you will participate in an online virtual orientation.

The AmeriCorps VISTA Member Orientation consists of a number of learning opportunities that you will complete in the following order:

  • Pre-Service Coursework
  • Onboarding Forms
  • Countdown to VISTA Service webinar
  • Launching Your VISTA Service webinar
  • Criminal History Check
  • On-Site Orientation and Training
  • Early-Service Coursework
  • VISTA Gear

Before arriving at your site for service, you must complete the Pre-Service Coursework on the VISTA Campus and your onboarding forms in the Member Portal (

Read below for details on each element of your orientation, with the estimated time it should take to complete each activity (please note that times are approximate and may vary).

Pre-Service Coursework

You must complete the following two courses, and accept the terms and conditions of service, before you can start serving as an AmeriCorps VISTA.

  • AmeriCorps VISTA Civil Rights and Responsibilities (45 minutes). This course explains your legal rights and responsibilities as an AmeriCorps VISTA, and what to do if you experience or witness discrimination or harassment.
  • AmeriCorps VISTA Terms and Conditions (45 minutes). This course describes the laws and policies related to your service. After completing all modules of this course, you will be directed to a Terms and Conditions Acceptance form on

Please note that you must be logged into the VISTA Campus and must not be logged into while taking this course in order to access the acceptance form. Click here for detailed instructions on completing and certifying your acceptance of the Terms and Conditions. You must accept the VISTA Terms and Conditions before you can start service.

We strongly recommend that you also complete the following courses in order to manage your benefits, find support, and focus your service goals.

  • Benefits of AmeriCorps VISTA Service (45 minutes). This tutorial describes the wide range of benefits you are eligible to receive during and after your service, including the End of Service Benefit (Education Award or Cash Stipend), VISTA Healthcare Benefit, and Childcare Benefit.
  • VISTA's Mission and Program Goals (15 minutes). This course provides a brief overview of the AmeriCorps VISTA program.
  • Test your knowledge! (10 minutes) Take this brief quiz to test your comprehension of the VISTA mission, benefits, and terms and conditions of service.

Onboarding Forms

You also must complete the following four online forms in order to start your AmeriCorps VISTA service.  Log into your account at and click on each link in the left menu to complete these forms:  

My Living Allowance

  • Direct Deposit Information (5 minutes)Watch this video on how to complete your direct deposit. If you are unsure of your account number and routing number, call your bank.  
  • Federal Tax Withholding (W4) (5 minutes) – If you need help filling out the form, go to
  • Unpaid Compensation Information (Designation of Beneficiary) (5 minutes) – If you don’t know the ZIP+4 extension, enter 1111 and the system will suggest the correct extension. 

My End of Service Benefit

  • End of Service Benefit Selection (5 - 10 minutes) – Read about the end of service benefits before choosing between the stipend and the education award.

Relocation Assistance

  • VISTA Candidates who move more than 50 miles from their home of record to their VISTA service site may qualify for relocation assistance. Review the VISTA Relocation Benefits Fact Sheet for further details.

Questions about onboarding forms can be answered by the VMSU at 800-942-2677.


You are also required to attend the following webinars. Details about the webinars will be sent to you about two weeks before your first day of service.

  • Countdown to VISTA Service (90 minutes) – This webinar highlights what to do before service, what to do on the first day of service, relocation, the criminal history check process, and provides an opportunity to ask questions.
  • Launching Your VISTA Service (90 minutes) – This webinar highlights the VISTA Program’s mission, discusses the VISTA Assignment Description (VAD), describes where to find resources and support, and officially swears you into VISTA service. There will also be a time to ask questions. This webinar occurs at 3:00pm ET on your first day of VISTA service.

Criminal History Check

Finally, all AmeriCorps VISTA members are required to undergo a background investigation. The AmeriCorps program investigates for past sexual offenses, violent crimes, and crimes that have direct negative implications on your service assignment.

You will receive an email with instructions for completing a name-based online background check, which is due before your first day of service. Your assignment is contingent upon successful completion of the criminal history background check.


On-Site Orientation and Training

Your AmeriCorps VISTA supervisor has developed an On-Site Orientation and Training to introduce you to the sponsoring organization, the community you serve, the project and your specific assignment, sponsor policies and procedures, and more. It may span weeks and involve formal and informal learning.

Early-Service Coursework

These courses, which are intended to be completed when you are at your site and within the first two weeks of service, will help you get the most out of your On-Site Orientation and Training and prepare you for your service as a VISTA. The worksheets are for your use and do not need to be submitted to AmeriCorps. 


As a new VISTA member, you are eligible for free VISTA gear! You are eligible to receive: one VISTA navy polo, one grey VISTA t-shirt, one VISTA lapel pin, one water bottle, one journal and one tote bag. Approximately two weeks after starting service, you will receive an email with ordering instructions.

Special Circumstances

If you would like us to consider unique, personal circumstances or accommodations — for example circumstances such as the need for physical or emotional support, your gender identity, or learning challenges — please contact the VMSU at 800-942-2677.

Download the VISTA Member Orientation Checklist. Use this document as a guide through the VISTA Member Orientation and check off tasks as you complete them.

Download the VISTA Resource and Contact Sheet. Have questions? Here is a list of who to contact for issues that may arise throughout your year of service.

(This page provides information for members serving a full year. Summer Associates, serving just for the summer months, click here for information about your pre-service requirements.)

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