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Undocumented Student Guide

AB 540 Nonresident Tuition Exemption

Under California law AB 540, certain nonresident students are exempt from paying nonresident supplemental tuition. If you're granted an AB 540 exemption, you will be charged in-state tuition and fees, and not the supplemental tuition charged to nonresidents.

Who is eligible?

Students (including undocumented students) who, for various reasons, are classified as nonresidents may be eligible. You must meet all three of the following requirements to be eligible:

1. Time and coursework requirements:


  • 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 bearing courses can count toward this requirement)


Three years of California high school coursework and three years of total attendance at a California elementary school, California secondary school, or any combination of the two.

  1. Degree or unit requirements:

Meet one of the following requirements:

  • Graduation from a California high school (or attainment of the equivalent)
  • Attainment of an associate’s degree from a California community college
  • Fulfillment of minimum transfer requirements from a California community college to a UC or CSU campus.
  1. Signed Nonresident Exemption Request:

You also must have signed the California Nonresident Exemption Request, which states that you meet all the requirements to qualify for AB 540 status and, if you are undocumented, are in the process of adjusting your immigration status (or will do so as soon as you are eligible).

Who is not eligible?

Students in possession of nonimmigrant visas (including, but not limited to any of the following visas: A, B, C, D, E, F, G, H, I, J, K, L, M, N, O, P, Q, R, S, T*, TN/TD, TWOV, U*, and NATO) are not eligible for this exemption.

*Except for holders of T and U visas: UC policy permits T and U visa holders with approved I-485 applications who meet the requirements described above to be exempt from nonresident supplemental tuition until they are eligible to establish California residency according to UC policy.

DACA recipients who do not meet the AB 540 tuition requirements, listed above, will not be eligible for the exemption.

How to Apply for AB 540 Nonresident Tuition Exemption

  1. After you have accepted an offer of admission to a UC campus, submit your Statement of Legal Residence to the campus residence deputy.
  2. If you then receive a nonresident classification, the campus residence deputy will ask you to complete the California Nonresident Tuition Exemption Request (AB540 Application) to determine your eligibility for the AB 540 nonresident tuition exemption. Be prepared to provide official California school transcripts and proof of high school graduation.

Once UC grants you the exemption, you won't need to reapply as long as your visa status doesn't change and you're continuously enrolled in the program to which you've been admitted at a UC campus.

Financial Aid Options

Undocumented graduate students who have AB 540 status are eligible for all UC financial aid, including private scholarships and fellowships donated to the regents and administered by UC.

CA Dream Loans

Undocumented students are encouraged to submit a CA Dream Act Financial Aid application to access state and institutional loans. To be eligible for CA Dream Act Financial Aid, you must be eligible and apply for state residency under state law AB540. More information on the CA Dream Loans here.

Graduate Programs 

Students may also seek support from their graduate program. Contact your program to determine if they are able to offer you support based on the availability of funds and your eligibility.

Undocumented Student Services

Undocumented Student Services may be able to offer you financial support. Contact the program to determine if they are able to offer you support based on the availability of funds and your eligibility.

Scholarships and Fellowships 

Immigrants Rising has compiled a comprehensive list of graduate scholarships and fellowships. Some scholarships and some fellowships my require you to be a DACA recipient, be sure to research your options before you apply.

Private Loans 

Employment and Research

If you are a DACA recipient, you may have an opportunity to work as a Graduate Student Researcher (GSR) or Research Assistant (RA), Teaching Assistant (TA) or Graduate Student Instructor (GSI) through your program. This is a good way to gain professional experience while earning money for school and living expenses. Employment and research opportunities also vary by department and program.

Note: If you’re eligible for DACA, but not for AB 540, you can still be employed by UC.

Without work authorization, undocumented students are not able to participate in the paid opportunities mentioned above. Speak with Undocumented Student Services about Inclusive Fellowships as an alternative.


Undocumented Student Service 

Undocumented Student Services is committed to serving undocumented students through a holistic approach that encompasses personal guidance, immigration legal services, advocacy, community building, and referrals. Our programs, services, student aid, and center amenities are designed to help students overcome obstacles that arise from their immigration status and support them through personal and academic excellence. Learn more about Undocumented Student Services.

Making a Living After Graduation

Undocumented immigrants with DACA may work for the period during which their DACA status is in effect and find employment options in most industries.

Other options include becoming self-employed as an independent contractor, starting a sole proprietorship, starting a limited liability company as a worker cooperative, and working abroad. For information about making a living through entrepreneurship, please see UC’s and Immigrant Rising’s Income Generation Options for Undocumented Students Toolkit (pdf).

Data Protections

UC San Diego is committed to maintaining the highest standards of student data privacy through its implementation of the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) and the UC Principles in Support of Undocumented Members of the UC Community.

UC San Diego will not release any personally identifiable student information, including any data related to immigration status, without a judicial warrant, subpoena or court order, unless authorized by the student or required by law.

Students can be confident that based on federal and state law, any information they submit on their college admission and/or financial aid applications will not put themselves or their families at risk. Directory information, which includes name, dates of attendance, and other factors can be considered public information. Students may request that the college restrict access to their directory information by contacting the Admissions or Registrar’s Office.