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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

FAFSA vs. California Dream Act Application

The Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) and California Dream Act Application (CADAA) are both applications to receive financial aid. Students should only complete one of the applications – not both – according to the following citizenship requirements:

  1. You are eligible to complete the FAFSA if you are a:
    • US citizen
    • Permanent resident
    • Eligible non-citizen
    • T visa holder
  2. You are eligible to complete the CADAA 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

Financial Aid Available for Undocumented Students

Undocumented students qualify for the following types of financial aid:

Non-Resident Exemption Requirements Under AB 540

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 [†]
  2. 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
  3. 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.
  4. Submit a Signed California Nonresident Tuition Exemption Request Form. 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 coursework and an attendance requirement, which can both be satisfied in three or more years.

How to Get In-State Tuition and Financial Aid

Step 1: Submit the Nonresident Tuition Exemption Request

If you meet the AB 540 requirements, then submit the California Nonresident Tuition Exemption Request to Admissions and Records.[*]

Step 2: Submit the California Dream Act Application

You only need to submit a single California Dream Act Application (CADAA) each academic year to be considered for financial aid programs that require the CADAA.

CADAA Deadlines

Academic Year CADAA Available Deadline to Submit CADAA Tax Filing Year
2021-2022 (Fall 2021, Spring 2022, and Summer 2022) October 1, 2020 March 2, 2021 2019
2022-2023 (Fall 2022, Spring 2023, and Summer 2023) October 1, 2021 March 2, 2022 2020

* Email completed form to


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.

About the Laws

AB 540, AB 2000, and SB 68

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 the 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 $395 at California community colleges.

California Dream Act

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.