***Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, some aspects of the VISTA Member Orientation may be adjusted. For more information, check out these Frequently Asked Questions at https://americorps.gov/coronavirus/americorps-vista-questions***
Welcome to AmeriCorps VISTA!
As a Volunteer In Service To America (VISTA), you are joining a national service program committed to fighting poverty and promoting economic equity. Before you begin your VISTA service, you will participate in an online orientation.
The 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
Read below for details on each element of your orientation, with the estimated time it should take to complete each activity.
You must complete the following two courses, and accept the terms and conditions of service, before you can start serving as a VISTA member.
- AmeriCorps VISTA Civil Rights and Responsibilities (45 minutes). This course explains your legal rights and responsibilities 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 my.americorps.gov.
Please note that you must be logged into the VISTA Campus and must not be logged into my.americorps.gov 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.
You are strongly encouraged to 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), Healthcare Benefit, and Childcare Benefit.
- VISTA's Mission and Program Goals (15 minutes). This course provides a brief program overview.
- Test your knowledge! (10 minutes) Take this brief quiz to test your comprehension of the VISTA mission, benefits, and service Terms and Conditions.
You also must complete the following forms in order to start your AmeriCorps VISTA service. Log into my.americorps.gov and click on each link in the left menu to complete these forms:
Your 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 www.irs.gov.
- 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.
Your End of Service Benefit
- End of Service Benefit Selection (5 minutes) – Read about the end of service benefits before selecting the stipend or the Segal Education Award.
- VISTA candidates who move more than 50 miles from their home of record to their VISTA service site may qualify for relocation assistance from VISTA. Review the VISTA Relocation Benefits Fact Sheet for further details.
Please contact the VISTA Member Support Unit at 800-942-2677, if you have additional questions about the required onboarding forms.
You are also required to attend the following webinars. Details about the webinars will be emailed 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 includes Q&A.
- Launching Your VISTA Service (90 minutes) – This webinar highlights VISTA’s mission, discusses the VISTA Assignment Description, describes where to find resources and support, includes Q&A, and officially swears you into VISTA service. This webinar occurs at 3:00-4:30 p.m. ET on your first day of VISTA service.
Criminal History Check
Finally, all VISTA members are required to undergo a criminal history/background investigation. AmeriCorps 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 an 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 VISTA project supervisor will provide 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 several days or weeks and include formal and informal learning opportunities
These courses are intended to be completed within the first two weeks of service, and they 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.
- Make the Most of Your Onsite Orientation and Training (1 hour) – This checklist will help you get acclimated to your organization and your project.
- Learn About Theory of Change (10 minutes) – Learn more about the theory behind the anti-poverty work you will be doing.
- Introducing Yourself and Your Organization: The Minute Intro (1 hour) – Create a short and impactful introduction to help you connect with the community you will be serving and your project stakeholders.
- How Poverty is Measured in the United States (5 minutes)
- VISTA Assignment Description Worksheet (1 hour) – This worksheet will help you understand your role in helping to address poverty in your community.
- Creating a Community Profile (1 hour) – Completing this profile will help you understand the makeup of your community as well as the particular challenges people navigating poverty face.
- Thirteen Lessons About Poverty (1 hour) – Provided by Dr. Stephen Pimpare, author of A People's History of Poverty in America.
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.
Please contact the VISTA Member Support Unit at 800-942-2677, If you would like to discuss any personal circumstances or accommodations (e.g., the need for physical or emotional support, gender identity, learning challenges).
(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.)