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 (CADA) builds on AB 540 by allowing these same students to apply for types of state financial aid for which they would otherwise be ineligible.

The terms "California Dream Act students," "AB 540 students," and "dreamers" are used interchangeably and include:

  • Undocumented students
  • Students who are US citizens but who are not California residents
  • Dependent students whose parents are not California residents

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: 


You can get AB 540 status if you:

  1. Meet one of the following high school requirements:
    • Attended a California high school for at least three years
    • Took the equivalent of at least three years of credits from a California high school and attended at least three full years at California K-12 schools
  2. Graduated from a California high school, got a GED, or passed the California High School Proficiency Exam
  3. Are enrolled at a California community college
  4. Complete an immigration status affidavit saying you have filed (or will file when you are eligible) for legal immigration status, if applicable

How to apply for nonresident tuition exemption 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. Submit an exemption request to each college you plan to attend. You will still be classified as a nonresident, even if you are exempted from paying nonresident tuition.

Step 2: Submit the California Dream Act Application

You only need to submit one California Dream Act Application (CADAA) to be considered for the financial aid programs that require the CADAA.


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.