California DREAM Act

Assembly Bill 540 was signed into law in October 2001. This bill allowed access to in-state tuition rates for eligible undocumented students at California colleges and universities.

About AB 540

Assembly Bill 540 was signed into law in October 2001. This bill allowed access to in-state tuition rates for eligible undocumented students at California colleges and universities. This was later extended to cover community colleges. AB 540 also benefitted U.S. citizens (about two-thirds of those who benefit from AB540 are US citizens or legal permanent residents). The bill allows students who meet certain criteria to lower the cost of college education at California colleges, as AB 540 students meet the state’s standards for California residency, thereby benefitting from in-state tuition costs.

To qualify, a student must meet ALL of the following requirements:

  1. Attend a California high school for 3 or more years;
  2. Graduate from a California high school or receive the equivalent, such as a GED or California Proficiency; and
  3. Submit an affidavit to the California public college or university you are attending or plan to attend.

California Dream Act Students

The terms “California Dream Act students,” “AB 540 students,” and “dreamers” may be used interchangeably and can include students who:

  • Are undocumented
  • Have a valid or expired DACA status
  • Are U Visa holders
  • Have Temporary Protected Status (TPS)
  • Meet the non-resident exemption requirements under AB 540, AB 2000, or SB 68
  • Have completed the California Dream Act Application for financial aid

Should You Fill Out the FAFSA vs California Dream Act Application?

Students should fill out one of these applications, (but not both), according to the appropriate citizenship requirements below:

FAFSA: You are eligible to complete the FAFSA at https://studentaid.gov/h/apply-for-aid/fafsa if you are a:

  • US Citizen
  • Permanent Resident
  • Eligible non-citzen
  • T Visa holder

You are eligible to complete the CADAA at https://dream.csac.ca.gov if you:

  • Are undocumented
  • Have a valid or expired DACA status
  • Are a U visa holder
  • Have Temporary Protected Status (TPS)
  • Meet the non-resident exemption requirements under AB 540

Note: The CADAA page will prompt you to fill out the form using one of these web browsers:

  • Internet Explorer version 9.0 and above (recommended)
  • Google Chrome version 24.0 and above

Financial Aid Available for Undocumented Students

Undocumented students qualify for State Grants, including Cal Grants and Chafee Grants.

Non-resident Exemption Requirements Under AB 540

Students must have the following:

  1. Complete either A or B for time and coursework requirements:
    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) [1]
      • 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 [2]
  2. Complete any of the following for degree or unit requirements:
    • 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
  1. Register or enroll in an accredited and qualifying California college or university. See a list of Cal Grant eligible schools. MTI College is a participating college.
  2. Submit a Signed California Nonresident Tuition Exemption Request Form. This form says that you will legalize your immigration status as soon as you are eligible; that you meet all the requirements to qualify for a non-resident exemption under AB 540 and; if you are undocumented, 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.
  3. Do not hold a valid non-immigrant visa (A, B, C, D, E, F, J, H, L, etc.) If you have Temporary Protected Status or hold a U Visa you are eligible.

Exemption Requirements Footnotes

[1]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.

[2]This provision addresses both a coursework and an attendance requirement, which can both be satisfied in three or more years.

Getting Financial Aid under AB 540

  1. If you meet the AB 540 requirements, then submit the California Nonresident Tuition Exemption Request to the Admissions department.
  2. Submit the California Dream Act Application. You only need to submit the California Dream Act Application (CADAA) once each academic year to be considered for financial aid programs that require the CADAA.

CADAA Deadlines

Academic Year Attendance Dates CADAA Available Deadline to Submit CADAA Tax Filing Year
2020-21 July 1, 2020 – June 30, 2021 October 1, 2019 March 2, 2020 2018
2021-22 July 1, 2021 – June 30, 2022 October 1, 2020 March 2, 2021 2019

Confidentiality

Information provided on the CADAA is not provided to the federal government nor is it checked against any federal databases. CADA information is protected by privacy and information security laws. CADA students will be required to submit parental income and asset information. The demographic information students provide on the CADAA typically overlaps with information students have already given to their high schools.

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