Benefits and Expectations of VISTA Members
AmeriCorps VISTA members make the commitment to serve for a full year with nonprofits, schools or government agencies to build the organizations’ capacity to serve more low-income communities, in better ways, for longer periods of time. Please read the following to ensure that serving as a VISTA is right for you.
The VISTA Summer Associate (VSA) program serves as a complement to the traditional, full-year AmeriCorps VISTA program. VISTA Summer Associates serve for eight weeks during June and July with organizations on a specific project that aims to empower individuals, families and communities to overcome poverty. If you are interested in this program, click here.
Personal and Medical Leave
Ten days of personal leave and ten days of medical leave are earned during the year of service. Learn more about leave benefits for AmeriCorps VISTA members, here.
To support their service, VISTAs receive a monthly living allowance of approximately $1,026 (prorated and paid every other Friday), annualized at $12,311 for the entire year.
The living allowance is intentionally set at 105 percent of the poverty rate in the county where the VISTA’s host site is located. The living allowance is intended to reflect solidarity with the low-income individuals the VISTA serves. The living allowance is not intended to be a traditional wage, but rather a stipend to cover basic expenses.
AmeriCorps VISTA members serving with the Initiative Foundation in 2017-2018 will receive a $200 per month housing allowance.
End of Service Award
Upon completing their year of service, VISTAs can select a $1,803 cash award or a $5,920 Segal AmeriCorps Education Award.
The Segal AmeriCorps Education Award is matched by certain colleges and universities. Additionally some colleges and universities waive application fees if you apply while serving as an AmeriCorps VISTA. Learn more about the Segal AmeriCorps Education Award, here.
Student Loan Programs
Any student loans are the responsibility of the individual VISTA. However, loan deferment or forbearance may be possible as a result of national service. VISTAs must first communicate with their loan provider to discuss whether deferment or forbearance of qualified student loans is an option. For more information, reference the VISTA Campus here.
Work full-time at an eligible nonprofit or government agency while making steady student loan payments for ten years (120 monthly payments), and the federal government will forgive the balance of your student loans. Careers include teaching, social work, military service, disability assistance, emergency management, and others. Learn more about national service and student loan forgiveness programs, here.
As a member of the Initiative Foundation’s cohort, VISTAs receive a dedicated support network and intentional leadership development throughout their service term. Trainers include sector leaders, consultants and others. Additionally, through one-to-one relationships with Initiative Foundation professionals, VISTAs gain individual support for their projects, career planning and other areas aligned with their individual goals.
VISTA members who relocate more than 50 miles from their home of record to serve are eligible to receive a $550 relocation allowance to help offset the costs associated with moving. Learn more, here.
VISTAs who maintain health insurance during their service may opt into the AmeriCorps VISTA Healthcare Allowance that covers up to $7,150 of out-of-pocket costs associated with healthcare. The Healthcare Allowance is only available for a VISTA member (not a child, spouse or other family member). You may also be eligible for the AmeriCorps VISTA Healthcare Plan if you meet certain requirements that allow exemption from the Affordable Care Act. As of fall 2017, VISTA members can now access virtual care at no cost in addition to their elected health benefit. For more information, click here.
AmeriCorps VISTA offers child care benefits to members who qualify. Child care benefits are paid according to your child care provider’s rates or the maximum allowable rate in the state in which the child care is being provided (whichever is the lesser of the two).
To qualify for the VISTA child care benefit, you must meet the following eligibility requirements:
- Household income must not exceed 75% of the state’s median income for a family of the same size; this limit is different for each state and may change annually. In determining household income, the VISTA member’s living allowance is disregarded.
- You do not already receive a child care subsidy from another source for the same child.
- You must be the parent or legal guardian of a child under the age 13, and the child must reside with you.
Learn more about AmeriCorps childcare assistance benefits, here.
Non-Competitive Eligibility Status
Once you’ve successfully completed AmeriCorps VISTA service, you will receive one year of non-competitive eligibility for employment in the federal government.
This special hiring status enables you to apply for federal jobs with the advantage of not having to go through the standard public competitive selection process. That means that you can be appointed to federal positions that may or may not be available to the general public. In addition, your application could be processed faster than others. NCE does not guarantee you a federal job, but it does provide a valuable opportunity!
To explore NCE further, understand how others have utilized NCE to advance their careers, and learn about applying for federal jobs, please visit these resources:
Free Tax Assistance
Each year, AmeriCorps Alums partners with MyFreeTaxes.com to offer free federal and state tax return filings to alums and current members. Year after year, this free service provides AmeriCorps alums with millions of dollars in tax refunds. This service has proved to be valuable to thousands of alumni who are looking to put a few extra dollars in their pocket around tax time or a free guide to filing taxes on your own online. Learn more, here.
VISTAs serve full time (typically 40 hours a week) for a full year (365 days).
Eligible VISTAs must be 18 years of age, a high school graduate (or have completed a GED) and a U.S. citizen, national, or legal permanent resident of the United States.
VISTAs may hold outside employment while serving, however outside employment may not conflict with a VISTA’s service or service hours.
Though VISTAs are absolutely entitled to religious beliefs, they cannot participate in religious activities while on duty as a VISTA. Examples of activities you cannot do on VISTA duty include:
- Provide religious instruction
- Conduct worship services
- Be admitted to a VISTA program based directly or indirectly on religious affiliation
- Induce others to participate in religious activities
VISTAs are allowed to attend class(es) as long as their studies do not interfere with their VISTA responsibilities. VISTAs and supervisors will need to determine whether or not the class(es) will detract from their commitment to the VISTA project.
The Hatch Act applies to VISTA members at all times during their service, including certain activities during their off-duty hours. VISTAs cannot engage in any political activity (either partisan or nonpartisan) that would result in identifying the VISTA program with the activity. While on duty or perceived to be identified with the VISTA program, they cannot show partisanship or work to direct resources (financial or human) to influence elections or legislation (e.g., lobby), engage in voter registration, or provide voter transportation to the polls.
Specific examples of activities they CANNOT participate in as a VISTA, either on- or off-duty:
- Soliciting or accepting monetary contributions for a partisan political candidate
- Pro-labor or anti-labor organizing
- Running for a partisan elected office
Participating in prohibited political activities during the VISTA term of service is cause for termination. Refer to the Chapter 14 of the Member Handbook for more information and a full list of prohibited activities.