Member Terms and Conditions

Some activities are prohibited while VISTA members are on duty or perceived to be on duty, while others are limited entirely during a VISTA member’s term of service. It is important for supervisors to not only to be knowledgeable about these terms and conditions but also to communicate that information to the VISTA members.

If a supervisor or sponsor learns about their VISTA member(s) participating in any prohibited activities, they are expected to let the VISTA know that their particular actions are prohibited and that continuing to participate in these activities can result in the VISTA’s removal from the service position. If the activity/behavior persists, the sponsor should contact the CNCS State Office.

See the section on Challenges with Members for more information on addressing prohibited activities.

For more information on VISTA terms and conditions, see the VISTA Member Handbook – Basic Laws & Federal Regulations.

Religious Organizations or Activities

CNCS acknowledges that religious activities play a positive role in healthy communities, that religion is a defining characteristic of many community organizations (faith-based and secular), and that religious-based belief and action are central to many VISTA members' lives.

It is important, however, that VISTA projects and their VISTA members do not endorse or promote, or appear to endorse or promote, religion or a specific religious belief. Consequently, CNCS imposes a number of limitations on activities that VISTA projects can support and in which VISTAs can engage while serving, or when otherwise representing VISTA. VISTA members are free to pursue these activities on their own initiative on non-VISTA time, and using non-VISTA funds or resources.

For more information, see the VISTA Member Handbook – Basic Laws & Federal Regulations.

Limitation on Political Activities [1]

VISTA members, as well as VISTA programs and projects, are subject to certain restrictions related to their engagement in political activities. Such political activities are classified as 1) engaging in electoral activities, 2) engaging in lobbying, or 3) participating in demonstrations.

For more information, see the VISTA Member Handbook – Basic Laws & Federal Regulations.

Limitation on Displacement of Employed Workers and Impairment of Contracts for Service

VISTA members are prohibited from performing activities or duties that would otherwise be carried out by employed workers or would supplant the hiring of or result in the displacement of employed workers, or would impair existing contracts for service.

CNCS regulations on non-displacement of employed workers and non-impairment of contracts for service are contained in 45 CFR Part 2556.150.

Limitation on Receiving Any Compensation or Other Benefits for Service of AmeriCorps VISTA Members

Agencies or organizations to which VISTA members are assigned, or which operate or supervise a VISTA project, are prohibited from requesting or receiving any compensation from VISTA members, or from those who benefit from the services that members provide (42 U.S.C. § 5044). In addition, it is the policy of the VISTA program that VISTA members not accept any benefit from the sponsoring organization or the community served through their VISTA assignments, unless otherwise permitted by CNCS policy (such as housing, transportation, bus passes, and training materials and tools). See the section on Supplemental Benefits for details.

Cash or in-kind contributions to an VISTA project, provided under the terms of a MOU between the primary VISTA-sponsoring organization and another participating agency, is not considered compensation for VISTA member services. CNCS must, however, review and concur in all such MOUs prior to implementation.

Limitation on Labor or Anti-labor Activity

CNCS funds must not be used, directly or indirectly, to finance labor or anti-labor organizations or related activities (42 U.S.C. § 5044). Consequently, a VISTA member must not be assigned to activities or duties that assist, directly or indirectly, any labor or anti-labor organizing activity or related activity.

Prohibition on Nepotism

To avoid actual or apparent favoritism in the operation of a VISTA project, the VISTA program prohibits certain VISTA member placement and assignment arrangements.

A VISTA member cannot be placed or assigned to a VISTA project site if the VISTA is:

  • In the immediate family (e.g., spouse, domestic partner, parent or guardian whether by blood or adoption, child whether by blood or adoption) of a project site staff member or a project site’s board of directors
  • A close relative, whether by blood or adoption (e.g., grandparent, grandchild, aunt, uncle, niece, nephew, first cousin) of a project site staff member or a project site’s board of directors

A project site employee is prohibited from holding a VISTA project supervisory position if she/he is:

  • In the immediate family (e.g., spouse, domestic partner, parent or guardian whether by blood or adoption, child whether by blood or adoption) of any CNCS program official responsible for the VISTA project or any project site employee who holds supervisory authority over him/her
  • A close relative, whether by blood or adoption (e.g., grandparent, grandchild, aunt, uncle, niece, nephew, first cousin) of any CNCS program official responsible for the AmeriCorps VISTA project or any project site employee who holds supervisory authority over him/her

For more information, see the VISTA Member Handbook – Basic Laws & Federal Regulations.

Limitation on AmeriCorps VISTA Fraternization

Relationships between AmeriCorps VISTA members and staff members (including volunteers and contracted personnel) of CNCS, sponsors, and sites that are exploitive or otherwise inappropriate, or that have the appearance of partiality, preferential treatment, or the improper use of position for personal gain, are prejudicial to the morale of VISTA members and will not be tolerated.

Inappropriate relationships between VISTA members and the aforementioned staff members are prohibited. Inappropriate relationships are those that compromise, or appear to compromise, supervisory authority, impede the ability for VISTA members to perform their duties, or could result in preferential treatment. Relationships are prohibited if they appear to involve the improper use of rank or position for personal gain.

For more information, see the VISTA Member Handbook – Basic Laws & Federal Regulations.

Limitation on Americorps VISTA Members Considered as Federal Employees[2]

AmeriCorps VISTA members are regarded as federal employees only for certain purposes under 42 U.S.C. § 5055, including the Hatch Act, the Federal Employees' Compensation Act (worker's compensation), the Federal Tort Claims Act, the IRS Code, and Title II of the Social Security Act. Members are not regarded as federal employees for purposes of unemployment compensation, and allowances received from CNCS are not regarded as wages, except for income tax and Social Security purposes.

Moreover, AmeriCorps VISTA members are not employees of sponsoring organizations. Because members serve under the authority of federal statute, their limited employment relationship is with the federal government (discussed above), not the sponsoring organization, and is governed by federal law, not state law. The AmeriCorps VISTA sponsoring organization is not authorized to make contributions to any state unemployment compensation fund on behalf of AmeriCorps VISTA members assigned to the organization.