VISTA Pre-Service Coursework and Onboarding

AmeriCorps VISTA
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(This page provides information for full-year VISTAs. Summer Associates please click here for information about your pre-service requirements.)

Welcome to AmeriCorps VISTA!

Thank you for joining AmeriCorps VISTA, the movement for social justice and economic equity. This page outlines what you’ll need to do before starting your VISTA service: required online coursework and onboarding forms.

My Travel Request Profile

  • If you will be attending an in-person Pre-Service Orientation (see section below), you will need to complete a Travel Request Profile in my.americorps.gov.
    • If you are not relocating, complete a Travel Request Profile for “Travel to Training.”
    • If you are moving 50 miles or more to your project site, you may qualify for relocation assistance. Please read the VISTA Travel Fact Sheet and then complete a Travel Request Profile for “Training and Relocation Travel.”
  • If you will be attending a virtual Pre-Service Orientation, you do not need to complete a Travel Request Profile. The VISTA Member Support Unit (VMSU) will determine whether you qualify for relocation assistance and notify you by email.
  • If you are unsure of what to do, contact the VMSU at 800-942-2677.

Required Pre-Service Coursework

  1. VISTA Campus Overview. The VISTA Campus offers a variety of online resources to help you during your year of service, as well as opportunities to connect with your fellow VISTA members, supervisors, and alumni. After watching this short video about key Campus features, create your Campus account.
  2. Benefits of Service. This self-directed tutorial describes the wide range of benefits you are eligible to receive during and after your service. Be sure to review information about the AmeriCorps Healthcare Benefits options and begin your application immediately (and no later than 30 days of starting VISTA service).
  3. VISTA Civil Rights and Responsibilities. This course explains your legal rights and responsibilities as a VISTA member, and what to do if you experience or witness discrimination or harassment.
  4. Mission and Legacy of VISTA. This course provides an overview of the VISTA program and introduces the four principles of VISTA service.
  5. VISTA Terms and Conditions. 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 in to the VISTA Campus (and not logged in to my.americorps.gov) while taking this course in order to access the acceptance form.
  6. Comprehension Check Quiz. The final mandatory step, the quiz requires a score of 100%.

Recommended Coursework

  • VISTA Child Care Benefit Tutorial. This tutorial will help you figure out whether you qualify for child care benefits, and provides additional information about the benefit as well as the application process.

Required Onboarding Forms

There are several online forms to complete as part of your onboarding process.  Log into your account at http://my.americorps.gov and click on each category in the left menu to complete these forms:  

My Living Allowance

  • Direct Deposit Information – if you are unsure of your account number and routing number, call your bank
  • Federal Tax Withholding (W4) – If you need help filling out the form, go to www.irs.gov
  • Unpaid Compensation Information (Designation of Beneficiary) – If you don’t know the ZIP+4 extension, enter 1111 and the system will suggest the correct extension. 

My In-Service Benefits

  • Life Insurance – you must either accept or waive this optional benefit.

End of Service Benefits Selection

For questions about onboarding forms, contact the VISTA Member Support Unit via the National Service Hotline at 800-942-2677 or submit a request online at https://questions.nationalservice.gov/.

Criminal History Checks

All AmeriCorps VISTA members and leaders are required to undergo a background investigation. This includes a search of the National Sex Offender Public Website and an FBI criminal history check, which requires you to submit fingerprints. The VISTA program is investigating for past sexual offenses, violent crimes, and crimes that have direct negative implications on your service assignment.

You will be provisionally sworn-in at PSO and your assignment is contingent upon successful completion of the criminal history background check.

On your first day of VISTA service, your VISTA supervisor will provide you with two fingerprint cards and instructions for getting fingerprinted. You have five weeks to get fingerprinted (at a local police station or other site) and submit the completed cards to VISTA program headquarters.  

Pre-Service Orientation for VISTA Candidates

The VISTA Pre-Service Orientation (PSO) introduces you to the VISTA program, its mission, history, and policies, and to your roles and responsibilities as a member. The PSO is one of several valuable resources to assist you in your important duties and help ensure you have a positive VISTA experience.

Pre-Service Orientation is offered two ways: in a 3½-day in-person training and as a four-week online course. If you’re not sure which type of training you’ll participate in, log in to My AmeriCorps and click on “My Events” in the left menu. Events with the word “virtual” in the code are conducted online and you’ll participate from your VISTA project site. Those with a city name in the code are face-to-face orientations, and you’ll travel to that location for the training.

A few weeks before the start of your PSO, you will receive an email with details about the specific PSO you are scheduled to attend, including the agenda and how to prepare.