Graduate & Professional School Students

AB 540 and Undocumented Status: Guidelines for Graduate Admission and Student Financial Support

The University of California, Davis attracts applicants for admission to graduate programs from all over the world. UC Davis is committed to recognizing and nurturing merit and achievement by supporting diversity and equal opportunity in academics. The following guidelines summarize issues related to student financial support for applicants to graduate study.

PLEASE NOTE: These guidelines are provided for general informational purposes only. They do not constitute legal advice, and may be incomplete. The following guidelines are designed for prospective students to the graduate programs offered at UC Davis.

UC Davis is dedicated to developing a diverse and accomplished graduate student body

UC Davis values a diversity of viewpoints, backgrounds, and experiences among its graduate student population and remains committed to facilitating a campus atmosphere well suited to this diversity. Graduate Studies strives to ensure that each applicant receives a holistic assessment based on their academic qualifications and ability to succeed in a graduate program. As part of this commitment to diversity, it is contrary to the core tenets of UC Davis to discriminate against applicants based on immigration status or national origin.

UC Davis offers many students different forms of financial support

Graduate programs often provide students with significant financial support, such as scholarships, paid fellowships, tuition and fee remission paid on behalf of the student, and/or a salary through academic employment. Some students also take advantage of access to student loans for their graduate education. An additional benefit available to qualified students who are not California residents is a waiver of Non-Resident Supplemental Tuition (NRST).  

Undocumented status, DACA, and AB 540 create special categories of financial aid eligibility

  • Undocumented status: Individuals are “undocumented” if they are not U.S. citizens and do not have a current, lawful status to reside in the U.S. Undocumented students are generally ineligible for federal financial aid, including federal student loans and federally-funded scholarships, grants, and fellowships.
  • DACA: “Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals” (DACA) is a federal policy that allows eligible undocumented individuals to remain in the U.S. for a period of two years at a time, subject to renewal. These individuals are eligible for work authorization. Individuals with DACA status and work authorization are eligible for academic employment. Without work authorization, undocumented students are not eligible for academic employment.
  • AB 540: In 2001, the California Legislature passed a bill known as Assembly Bill 540, or AB 540.  This bill establishes eligibility standards for individuals to be exempt from non-resident supplemental tuition.  The individuals who benefit from this legislative act are commonly referred to as AB 540 students, which can include undocumented students as well as U.S. citizens. For more information on eligibility for AB 540 status, please visit:
  • Dream Act:  AB 130 and AB 131, or the Dream Act, allows individuals who are eligible for AB 540 to receive scholarships and fellowships funded by the state and/or the University of California.

Graduate programs should provide guidance about financial support eligibility in offer letters

Programs often provide prospective students information about financial support when they make an offer of admissions. Offer letters should provide access to resources that provide clear guidance about how AB 540, DACA, and immigration status might affect eligibility for certain types of funding. Students should know whether they are eligible to accept all or part of an offer, and how to get help from the program to understand their options.

Students with work authorization are eligible for academic employment

Academic employment as a Graduate Student Researcher (GSR), Teaching Assistant (TA), Associate In_, or Reader is a common form of student support, but an appointment to these positions requires work authorization. Students with work authorization may earn a salary, and may have all or part of their tuition, fees, and/or NRST paid on their behalf as a benefit of employment, depending on the appointment. Additionally, students with work authorization are eligible to be employed under federal and state research awards, grants and contracts, unless otherwise provided in the contract terms.

AB 540 students are eligible for state and UC Davis financial support

Undocumented AB 540 students are eligible for state and UC Davis financial aid, including fellowships and scholarships. AB 540 status by itself does not establish work eligibility, so undocumented students also require work authorization to be eligible for academic employment. All undocumented students, regardless of AB 540 status, are ineligible for all types of federal financial aid, including federally-funded fellowships, scholarships, and loans.

Undocumented students without AB 540 status are limited in the types of financial support they may receive

Undocumented students without AB 540 status are not eligible for federal, state, or UC Davis-administered financial aid, including scholarships, fellowships, or loans. Private scholarships, private loans, and private fellowships (that are not administered through UC Davis) are the only financial aid options for undocumented students without AB 540 status.

Undocumented students who have work authorization but not AB 540 status qualify for academic employment, including employment under a federal or state research award, grant or contract, unless otherwise specified in the contract terms. Students who have DACA status but not AB 540 status may still qualify for state residency, which exempts them from NRST. The period of time the student is in DACA status is considered “legal presence” and may count towards the 366-day physical presence requirement that is required to establish California state residency. For more information on state residency requirements, please visit:

Citizenship, residency, AB 540 status, visa type, and academic status determine NRST

AB540 status, visa type

Work eligibility and financial support for undocumented students, AB 540 status, and non-immigrant visas

citizenship image

If you have additional questions, contact the AB540 and Undocumented Student Center.

Prospective students, current students, faculty, and graduate program staff can receive clarification and updates from the UC Davis AB540 and Undocumented Student Center:


Phone: (530) 752-9538