California Dream Act AB540


The California Dream Act allows some undocumented students to apply for and receive state-based financial aid and institutional scholarships.

The California Dream Act allows undocumented and nonresident students (US citizens and eligible non-citizens) who qualify for a non-resident exemption under Assembly Bill 540 (AB 540) to receive certain types of financial aid such as: private scholarships, state administered financial aid, California College Promise Grant, and Cal Grants.

The California Dream Act is unrelated to the federal Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program.

Passing the California Dream Act symbolizes a milestone victory for undocumented students and allies in California who organized and advocated for increased access to college.

Students who are AB540 and have the California Dream Act are also called “Dreamers”

This includes students who are/have:

  • Undocumented
  • U Visa holders
  • Temporary Protected Status (TPS)
  • Completed the California Dream Act application
  • Meet the requirements for the non-exemption under AB 540, AB 2000, or SB 68

To be eligible for FAFSA you must be:

  • US Citizen
  • Permanent Resident
  • Eligible non-citizen
  • T-visa holder

To be eligible for CADA you must be:

  • Undocumented
  • U visa holder
  • Temporary Protected Status (TPS)
  • Have a valid or expired DACA status
  • Meet the requirements for the non-exemption under AB540, AB2000, or SB68

Financial Aid Available for Undocumented Students

Undocumented students qualify for the following types of financial aid:


Non-Resident Exemption Requirements Under AB540

Students must meet the following requirements:

  1. Time and Coursework Requirements (either A or B):
    1. Attendance for three full-time years or the equivalent at any combination of the following:
      • California high school
      • California adult school (including non-credit courses offered by a California community college)
      • California community college (maximum of two years of credit courses can count toward this requirement)
    2. Three years of California high school credits, along with three years of total attendance at a California elementary school, California secondary school, or any combination of the two
  1. Degree or Unit Requirements (completion of any of the following):
    • Graduation from a California high school or the equivalent (GED, HiSET, TASC, CHSPE)
    • Attainment of an Associate degree from a California Community College
    • Fulfillment of the minimum transfer requirements from a California Community College to a UC or CSU campus
  2. Register or Enroll in an Accredited and Qualifying California College or University. This requires registration as a student at an accredited institution of higher education in California. See a list of Cal Grant eligible schools.
  3. Submit a Signed California Nonresident Tuition Exemption Request Form(PDF). This form states that you meet all the requirements to qualify for a non-resident exemption under AB 540 and, if you are undocumented, that you are in the process of legalizing your immigration status (or will do so as soon as you are eligible to do so). This form is confidential and will not be shared with other agencies.

Exemption Requirements Footnotes

  • A year’s equivalence at a California community college is either a minimum of 24 semester units or 36 quarter units of credit. For non-credit courses, a year’s attendance is a minimum of 420 class hours per year (a semester is equivalent to a minimum of 210 hours and a quarter is equivalent to a minimum of 140 hours). Full-time attendance at a California adult school is a minimum of 420 hours of attendance for each school year.
  •  This provision addresses both a coursework and an attendance requirement, which can both be satisfied in three or more years.

Step 1- Submit the Nonresident Tuition Exemption Request

If you meet the AB540 requirements, then download the PDF and submit the California Nonresident Tuition Exemption Request (PDF) to Admissions and Records.

Step 2- Submit the California Dream Act Application

Every academic year you will need to submit one California Dream Act Application so you can be considered for financial aid programs that require the California Dream Act.

Please click-on and review the chart for

In-state tuition vs. Ca Dream Act vs. DACA


Assembly Bill (AB) 540 is a California law passed in 2001 that states that undocumented students who meet certain requirements can be exempted from nonresident tuition at California public colleges and universities. This includes California community colleges, California State University, and University of California.

In 2014, AB 2000 was passed and expanded the definition to allow additional flexibility for who can meet the requirements. In 2018, Senate Bill (SB) 68 went into effect, further expanding the criteria.

These laws are important because the exemption allows eligible undocumented students to pay the in-state tuition rate of $46 per unit instead of the non-resident student tuition rate of $353 at California community colleges.

Deadline for the California Dream Act

Academic Year 


(Fall 2024, Spring 2025, and Summer 2025)

Application Opens

December 31, 2023

Submission Deadline

April, 2024

 Taxes – Filing Year