*** 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 www.nationalservice.gov/coronavirus ***
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
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).
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 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.
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.
You also must complete the following four online forms in order to start your AmeriCorps VISTA service. Log into your account at my.americorps.gov 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 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.
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.
- 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. This includes an FBI criminal history check, which requires you to submit fingerprints. The AmeriCorps VISTA program investigates for past sexual offenses, violent crimes, and crimes that have direct negative implications on your service assignment.
You will be provisionally sworn-in on your first day of service. Your assignment is contingent upon successful completion of the criminal history background check.
Your AmeriCorps VISTA supervisor will provide you with two fingerprint cards and instructions for getting fingerprinted. You have 30 days from your first day of service to get fingerprinted (at a local police station or other site) and submit the completed cards to AmeriCorps VISTA program headquarters.
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.
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.
- Make the Most of Your Onsite Orientation and Training (1 - 2 hours) – 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) – This course helps spur your thinking on this complex issue.
- VISTA Assignment Description (VAD) Worksheet (1 hour) – This worksheet will help you understand your role in helping to address poverty in your community.
- Creating a Community Profile (1 - 2 hours) – 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 - 2 hours) – Explore lessons about poverty learned during the first 50 years of the VISTA program, in this compelling explanation 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.
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.
(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.)