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AB 540 - Frequently Asked Questions

1.   What are the basic eligibility criteria under AB 540?

To be AB 540 eligible, students must meet ALL of the following:

    • The student must have attended a high school (public or private) in California for three or more years.
    • The student must have graduated from a California high school or attained the equivalent prior to the start of the term (for example, passing the GED or California High School Proficiency exam).
    • A student who is without lawful immigration status must file an affidavit with the college or university stating that he or she has filed an application to legalize his or her immigration status, or will file an application as soon as he or she is eligible to do so.
    • At SCC, this affidavit is submitted to the Admissions & Records office, but students transferring to a different college or university should check with that institution to verify their procedure.

2.   What does AB 540 status do for the student?

Qualified AB 540 students are allowed to attend a California public college or university and pay resident tuition fees instead of the far more expensive non-resident fees.

3.   What is the cost difference between in-state vs. out-of-state tuition?

Fees/tuition as follows:

California Community Colleges 2016-17 fees: $46 per unit in-state; $255 per unit out-of-state. (varies by campus)

California State University 2016-17 fees: $6,698 per year in-state; $372 per unit out-of-state. (varies by campus)

University of California 2016-17 fees: $13,500 per year in-state; $40,180 per year out-of-state (varies by campus)

These figures are subject to change.

4.   Does the AB 540 law apply to all public systems of higher education in California?

Yes. AB 540 applies at the University of California, California State University and California Community Colleges. The support and resources available to undocumented students varies by campus, and transferring students must submit an AB 540 affidavit at each school they attend. Please consult the SCC Transfer Center or a university representative for more information.

5.   I completed two of my four years of high school in a state other than California. Do I qualify under AB 540?

No. In order to qualify for the AB 540 waiver, undocumented students must meet all of the requirements above, including at least three years of attendance in a California public or private high school.

6.   AB 540 requires that I submit a sworn statement or an affidavit to the admissions office of the college or university that I am attending. What type of information do I have to include in the affidavit?

All students seeking AB 540 status must file an affidavit with the college stating that the student meets the law’s requirements and, if the student is not a U.S. Citizen or legal permanent resident, that the student is either in the process of adjusting his or her immigration status or will do so as soon as he or she is eligible. To download the affidavit in pdf format, click here. By signing the affidavit, the student states that all information provided in the affidavit is truthful and accurate. Providing false information may lead to academic penalty or impair future attempts to change immigration status.


7.   Will the colleges or universities I attend share the information I provide in the affidavit with U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) or Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE)?

No. Under California law, the information you provide in the affidavit must remain confidential.


8.   If I am eligible for the AB 540 tuition exemption, will I be considered a California resident at the public college or university where I enroll?
No. A student who qualifies for AB 540 is classified as a “nonresident student with AB 540 exemption.”


9.   As an AB 540 student, am I considered an international student?
No. Undocumented AB 540 students are not international students because they do not hold a student visa, and should not apply as such.

10.   Can I apply for AB 540 status at private universities or technical colleges?

No. Private colleges are not subject to AB 540 and set their own tuition policies. If you are interested in attending a private institution, contact the SCC Transfer Center or a university representative to discuss what fees you would be required to pay and whether you may qualify for any scholarships they offer.

11.   Does it matter how long ago a student graduated from a California high school to be eligible for
AB 540?

No. As long as the student attended a California high school for at least 3 years prior to graduation, the elapsed   time  does not affect a student’s eligibility under AB 540.


12.   Do I qualify under AB 540 if I attended an adult school (ROP, etc) in California for three years and have a GED?

Attending an adult school is not equivalent to attending a high school and does not generally satisfy undocumented AB 540. However, if the adult school was an “evening high school,” some higher education institutions may accept it. Transfer students who are using courses from these schools to meet admissions requirements should consult a representative from the college or university you are considering attending.

13.   Can a Certificate of Completion meet the high school diploma equivalent for AB 540?

Because a Certificate of Completion is given to students who completed all of the required high school curriculum but did not pass all of their high school exit exams, it is generally not recognized as the equivalent of a high school diploma. However, some community colleges may accept the Certificate of Completion in place of a high school diploma to meet the AB 540 requirement. Please consult with a representative from the college or university you are considering attending.

14.   Do I qualify for any type of state or federal financial aid?
Undocumented AB 540 students DO qualify for state financial aid (e.g. BOG Fee Waiver at the community college, EOPS and Cal Grant) but NOT for federal (e.g. FAFSA, Pell, and SEOG) financial aid. Federal laws prohibit undocumented immigrant students from receiving any type of government-subsidized educational benefits. However, undocumented immigrant students may qualify for State financial aid based on AB 130 and 131 laws and private scholarships that do not require verification of legal immigration status. Contact the SCC Financial Aid Office for more information on scholarships and state financial aid requirements. 

15.   Where can I look for scholarships that do not require applicants to have legal immigration status?

Visit the SCC Financial Aid Office, and check our links page for more information on scholarships. Do not pay any person or organization to apply for scholarships or for access to scholarship lists. Legitimate scholarships never ask for an application fee. Beware of scholarship scams.

16.   Do AB 540 students qualify for an educational loan as an undocumented  student?
Undocumented students do not qualify for any type of federal or California state financial aid including educational loans because federal law prohibits them from receiving these loans. Students who are interested in financing their education with private loans should contact private lending institutions to determine their eligibility for these loans.

17.   What if I have already given the school a Social Security number that does not belong to me, or stated that I am a United States citizen or lawfully present immigrant and I am not?

If you are eligible to apply for AB 540 but have falsified information regarding your immigration status with your college or university or any other state or federal agency, you should seek legal advice from a licensed immigration attorney. Falsely claiming to be a United States citizen or a legal permanent resident is considered immigration fraud and may cause you to be ineligible to legalize your immigration status if you become eligible to do so in the future. For a referral to a licensed immigration attorney contact the State Bar of California online or at (866) 442-2529.

18.   I have a valid student visa. Am I eligible for the AB 540 tuition exemption?
No. AB 540 is only available to United States citizens, legal permanent residents, and undocumented immigrant students who meet the eligibility requirements outlined under AB 540. AB 540 does not permit individuals with any type of nonimmigrant visas (which include student visas) to receive the AB 540 nonresident tuition exemption.

19.   Does AB 540 change my immigration status?
No. AB 540 only determines what tuition rate a student pays. It DOES NOT change your immigration status, and it DOES NOT create a path to legalize your immigration status.

20.   Do I need to be in the legalization process to qualify for AB 540?

No. Students who are already in the process of adjusting their status and those who have not yet begun the process can qualify to apply for the tuition exemption under AB 540. To qualify you must submit an affidavit stating that you will start the process to adjust your status as soon as you are eligible to do so.

21.   If I want to attend a graduate program or a professional school (e.g. law school), can I use the AB 540   exemption?
If you obtain admission to a graduate or professional program at a California public university and meet the requirements for AB 540, then you are eligible for the out-of-state tuition exemption. If you are interested in a particular graduate or professional program, please contact the admissions counselor of that program to ask about the program’s specific admissions requirements.

Thanks to the Mexican American Legal Defense Fund (MALDEF) for providing some of the text for this FAQ page.