Many undocumented students were brought to this country as children, and in many cases, are not aware that they are in the U.S. without a valid immigration status. These students have struggled historically to enroll in colleges and universities across the country. Since 2001 in California, undocumented students who meet certain eligibility requirements have been able to enroll in public colleges and universities while paying in-state tuition. In 2011, the California Dream Act was enacted which permits eligible undocumented students to benefit from scholarships and state financial aid. Here is more information on policies that are relevant to undocumented students in California:
Assembly Bill 540 (AB 540) & Senate Bill 68 (SB 68)
What is AB 540 and SB 68?
AB 540 allows eligible undocumented students to have access to in-state tuition at public colleges and universities in California. Eligibility for AB 540 was expanded upon through AB 2000 and now a student may qualify for exemption from nonresident tuition:
- either by high school attendance in California for three or more years
- or by either elementary or secondary school attendance,
- or both in California for a total of 3 or more years and
- attainment of credits earned in California from a California high school equivalent to 3 or more years of full-time high school coursework and a total of three or more years of attendance in California elementary schools, California secondary schools, or a combination of these schools."
- Must register or is currently enrolled at an accredited institution of public higher education in California;
- Must file or will file an affidavit as required by individual institutions, stating that the filer will apply for legal residency as soon as possible;
- Must not hold a valid non-immigrant visa (F, J, H, L, A, E, etc.)
Does AB 540 and SB 68 apply to Community Colleges, CSU's, and UC's?
Yes, the California Community Colleges, the California State University, and the University of California have all adopted AB 540.
AB 540/SB 68 requires that I submit a sworn statement or affidavit to the school that I will be attending. What information do I need to provide in this statement or affidavit?
All students requesting exemption from non-resident tuition must file an affidavit with the college or university in which they are enrolling. The form states that the student meets the AB 540 criteria and if they are not a U.S. citizen or legal permanent resident, that they are in the process of adjusting their legal status or will do so as soon as they are eligible. The form will ask you to provide information such as the high school(s) you attended, your dates of attendance, and your student information and campus identification number. By signing the affidavit, you declare to the college or university that the information you have provided is true and accurate. You must also submit official high school transcripts along with the affidavit to the office of Enrollment Services.
Will the college or university I am or will be attending share the information that I provide in the affidavit with U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) or Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE)?
No. Under the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA), the information that you provide will be kept confidential. Additionally, AB 540 and AB 2000 dictate that student information obtained through the affidavit will be confidential.
I am a student with a valid student visa. Am I eligible for the AB 540/SB 68 non-resident tuition exemption?
No. Individuals who hold a valid student visa are not eligible for the AB 540 non-resident tuition exemption as they are considered to be "non-immigrant aliens" under U.S. immigration law. AB 540 is only available to U.S. Citizens, legal permanent residents, and undocumented immigrant students who meet the outlined criteria. However, if a student's non-immigrant visa has expired and they are undocumented, then they may be eligible to apply for the AB 540 tuition exemption, if they meet the criteria.
Does AB 540/SB 68 change my immigration status?
No. The AB 540 non-resident tuition exemption does not change or affect your immigration status or place you on a path towards citizenship or legal residency. AB 540 only exempts you from paying out of state fees and makes you eligible to receive state financial aid upon completion of the CA Dream Act application.
If I want to attend graduate school or professional school, can I use AB 540/SB 68?
Yes. Undocumented students can pursue graduate or professional school opportunities and assuming they meet the criteria for AB 540 and apply to receive an exemption for non-resident tuition. Remember, AB 540 only applies to public colleges and universities in California.
For individuals pursuing professional school, another important piece of legislation is AB 1159. This bill prohibits, except as specified, any entity within the department from denying licensure to an applicant based on his or her citizenship status or immigration status. For specifics, please visit here.
California DREAM Act
What is the California DREAM act?
The California DREAM (Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors) Act includes two state laws, AB 130 and AB 131, that support access to higher education for undocumented students. The California DREAM Act allows undocumented and nonresident documented students who meet certain provisions to apply for and receive private scholarships funded through public universities, state administered financial aid, University grants, community college fee waivers, and Cal Grants. For detailed information and frequently asked questions, please refer to the California Student Aid Commission.
Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) - Rescinded on Sept. 5, 2017
Updated on 9/22/17: On September 5, 2017, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) initiated the orderly phase out of the program known as Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA). DHS will provide a limited, six-month window during which it will consider certain requests for DACA and applications for work authorization, under specific parameters.
For information on what this announcement means for your DACA status, please refer to:
U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services
Resources for More Information:
With the elimination of the DACA program, will the CSU enforce federal immigration and hold requests?
The CSU will continue to comply with federal immigration laws, but the enforcement of those laws is currently the responsibility of the federal government, not the CSU. CSU campus police do not contact, detain, question or arrest individuals solely on the basis of their being - or suspected of being - a person that lacks documentation. Absent a legal requirement, CSU's actions in this area will not change and the CSU will not enter into agreements with federal authorities to enforce federal immigration and hold requests.
With the elimination of the DACA program, will DACA students still be able to receive state and institutional financial aid?
State and institutional aid is not dependent on DACA approval. The financial aid available to undocumented AB 540 students who may also be DACA-approved is authorized by state law and comes from state and CSU sources. Therefore, the repeal of DACA has no effect on the availability of an undocumented AB 540 student's financial aid under state law.
Are CSUs "sanctuary" campuses?
The CSU is committed to providing a safe and welcoming learning community for all students. The term "sanctuary" is a confusing term that lacks a universal legal or educational definition and could lead to misunderstanding and misplaced reliance.
What actions has the CSU taken to advocate for the continuation of DACA?
Privacy and the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA)
What is FERPA, why is it important for undocumented students?
FERPA is a federal law that protects the privacy of a student's educational records. This law applies to CSULB and as a result the university cannot release student information, including legal status, except under very specific circumstances.
Parents and family members of undocumented students are commonly concerned with a fear of deportation and the well-being of their children and as a result may caution them about not revealing their legal status. Parents and families should know that there are laws in place that protect a student's records at the university level.