What is AB 540?

Assembly Bill (AB) 540 is legislation that allows students who are not California residents – but who meet certain requirements – to pay less in tuition by letting them pay the resident rate instead of the nonresident rate.

What is the California Dream Act?

The California Dream Act allows undocumented and nonresident students (U.S. 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 terms "California Dream Act students," "AB 540 students," and "dreamers" are used interchangeably and include students who:

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

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

What Financial Aid is Available for Dreamers?

Dreamers can apply for the following types of financial aid: 

Non-Resident Exemption Requirements Under AB 540

Students must meet the following four 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 (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.

* 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.

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 (PDF) to Admissions & 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.

Academic year CADAA Available Deadline to submit CADAA Tax filing year
2019-2020 (Fall 2019, Spring 2020, and Summer 2020) October 1, 2018 March 2, 2019* 2017
2020-2021 (Fall 2020, Spring 2021, and Summer 2021) October 1, 2019 March 2, 2020* 2018
2021-2022 (Fall 2021, Spring 2022, and Summer 2022) October 1, 2020 March 2, 2021* 2019


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.