The California Dream Act: Connected to Legal Immigration

Are you an undocumented immigrant who attended high school in California and came to the U.S. before the age of 16? The California Dream Act of 2011 may be a chance for you to receive financial aid for college. The Act connects to your efforts for a path to permanent residency or citizenship.

The California Dream Act is a set of state laws. It is significantly different from the federal Dream Act that remains unsigned by Congress. The California Dream Act, signed into law by Governor Jerry Brown in October of 2011, provides individuals who attended at least three years of high school in California and earned a high school diploma from a California high school with the chance to receive financial aid at institutions of higher learning.

In order to receive funding, individuals must show that they are in the process of applying to become legal, or documented, immigrants. This means that in order to take advantage of the benefits of the California Dream Act, you should consider seeking the services of a qualified immigration lawyer. If you have applied or are considering applying for Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), be aware that an application for DACA may not be considered a process of applying to become a legal immigrant. DACA offers applicants a two-year deferral from deportation and a two-year work permit. It does not offer a chance to be considered for permanent residency or citizenship.

The California Dream Act will begin to have a serious effect in 2013. Undocumented immigrants who have been accepted by state universities will be eligible for financial aid through Cal-Grants, a public program that in 2011 provided aid to over 370,000 low-income students. Undocumented immigrants will also become eligible for institutional grants (private grants funded by a college or university) in the University of California and California State University systems. In addition, undocumented immigrants will be able to obtain fee waivers for community colleges.

To remain eligible for financial aid, undocumented immigrants must demonstrate financial need and meet the academic standards of the specific aid or grant for which they apply. Contact our office at 415-986-6186 to learn more about your immigration options.