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What’s the Difference between FAFSA, CADAA & DACA?

What’s the Difference between FAFSA, CADAA & DACA?

Difference Between FAFSA CADAA and DACA

Which financial aid application should undocumented students complete? 

For years, undocumented students have received mixed messages about whether they should be submitting the FAFSA, California Dream Act Application (CADAA), or both? In no case should a student submit both a FAFSA and CADAA. Furthermore, undocumented students should not complete the FAFSA, but instead if they meet the non-resident exemption requirements under AB 540 should be submitting the CADAA. In addition to clarification about FAFSA and CADAA, you should be clear on the distinctions between the California Dream Act and the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA)

Important Distinctions between CADAA & DACA:

  • The California Dream Act is a policy for students based on where they attended high school. By attending enough years of high school in California, the student is to be considered AB540 eligible (a state resident). The California Dream Act does not consider U.S. citizenship status.

Abbreviated Dream Act / AB540 qualifications:

  1. Attend a California high school for at least three years or attain the equivalent of credits earned within two years.
  2. Graduation from a California high school or the equivalent
  3. Register or enroll in an accredited and qualifying California college or university.
  4. Submit a signed “Non-Resident Exemption/AB 540 Affidavit” Request
  • DACA is a federal policy to determine, among other things, employment eligibility in the United States. Through DACA, students receive a federal social security number which is limited exclusively to working purposes.

Please note: The CADAA is NOT connected to DACA in any way. While you may have some students, who are “DACAmented”, it is not a requirement to be eligible to submit a CADAA.


Further details outlining student qualifications are provided at

Possible Aid Awarded Undocumented Students

Undocumented students meeting AB540 qualifications are eligible to receive aid through all California state aid programs. Table 1 below outlines the most common aid programs available to undocumented students.

Bridging tip: Undocumented students qualify for the same state aid as their peers; thus, they must apply using the correct application (CADAA). 

Table 1. Aid Programs

Aid Program  Description 
Cal Grant  Pays state fees at CSU & UC (allowance towards Private colleges)
Middle Class Scholarship Tuition Discount 
UC Blue and Gold  Pays state fees
CSU State University Grant  Pays state fees
California College Promise Grant Pays state fees
EOP Offers support services, book/laptop grants and funds for other expenses
DREAM Loan  Student loans for undocumented students
Public/Private Scholarship(s) Varies in what aid is offered