AB 540 and Students without Work Authorization

College of the Desert is committed to providing AB 540 students with or without work authorization professional and career development services and resources. We support your diverse identities and experiences, regardless of your immigration status. Throughout your time at College of the Desert, you will explore your interests and passions to navigate your path forward. These resources will help guide your career interests while at COD and beyond.

Students without work authorization have a number of opportunities available during and after graduation from COD, including internships and various forms of employment. Internships can provide an opportunity for undocumented students to determine whether they are interested in a particular career, gain experience in a field, and create a professional network. Unpaid internships that may qualify for an internship scholarship are a great way to gain meaningful work experience without being considered an employee.  

Meet with a Career Counselor or Staff Member

Call or stop by the Career and Workforce Solutions Center to schedule an appointment with one of our staff members or career counselors who can work with you to explore career opportunities.

  • Career counseling is a collaborative and confidential space where you can work with a career counselor to clarify goals while exploring your values, interests, and skills, and personality. A Career Counselor and/or Work Experience Education staff can support you through the decision-making process as you search/apply for jobs/internships, consider transfer options, and develop a plan for your future career development. Contact us or schedule a career counseling appointment today!  
  • For more on how you can get help from your school, check out Income and Career Options for Undocumented Students: How Colleges Can Help (video) from TheDream.us. 

How to Gain Experience

The best way to prepare for life after graduation is to find experiences that will allow you to develop skills you can apply in the workplace. Whether it is a paid or unpaid position, it is important to choose experiences that help you explore your individual interests that align with your career goals.

Skill-building experiences may include, but not limited to, the following activities:

  • Internships
  • Fellowships
  • Research
  • Volunteering
  • Community organizing or civic engagement
  • Academic projects
  • Shadowing professionals
  • Part-time positions
  • Leadership roles in campus student groups
  • Study abroad (with DACA)

Attend in-person or virtual career workshops throughout the semester to learn how to communicate the value of your experiences through your application materials (resume, cover letter, writing sample, or personal statement), in an interview, or as you network with other professionals. Career workshops can be found via Handshake under Events. Be sure to look for the COD sponsored events titled "COD Premier Events".

Job/Internship Search

There are many online resources for finding jobs and internships. Check out our Internship Guide to access valuable resources and step-by-step guide. 

As a student without work or employment authorization, you may be managing financial stressors that make it difficult to pursue unpaid internships. Contact the Work Experience to inquire about internship scholarships. 

Disclosing Your Status to Employers

It can be confusing and stressful to decide when and with whom to share your status. Throughout the job search and hiring process it is important to provide information that is true and authentic. However, you ultimately get to decide whether or not to share your status.

You may decide to share your status with an organization early in the hiring process or in an interview if you feel comfortable doing so, and to start a discussion about how to move forward in the process. It is important to consider who you would want to disclose to (sharing with a recruiter vs. a supervisor) and in what manner (disclosing in a personal statement for grad school vs. in an interview). If you are unsure about whether and how to disclose your status, meet with one of the career center’s career counselors, a staff member of the Work Experience Office or Dreamer Resource Center. We are all here to support you during these uncomfortable situations.

Filling Out Applications

On job applications there is usually a question that says: “Are you legally authorized to work in the United States?”

    • If you have DACA you can answer “yes” to the question and continue through the hiring process without having to disclose more detailed information about your background. 
    • If you do not have DACA or another work authorization status, there are other options you may consider for gaining experience and finding employment. See the section below for alternative employment options.
    • When searching for jobs, especially on Handshake, you will be able to tell whether the position required Work Authorization Documentation or not. 
    • Check out Handshake's Work Authorization Overview for both students and employers. 

DACA & Alternative Employment Options


Deferred action for childhood arrivals (DACA) provides temporary relief from deportation and work authorization for individuals who came to the U.S. as children and who meet certain guidelines. 

Alternative Employment Options

If you do not have DACA, or are wondering what your options are while we wait for the Supreme Court decision on DACA, you may consider other avenues for getting professional experience, such as:

    • If you receive an internship offer, you may ask the employer not to be paid and pursue other means of financial support such as those mentioned above.
    • You may discuss with an employer the option of working as an independent contractor. Independent contractors often do the same type of work, but instead of working for one employer, might work for multiple clients. Examples of independent contractor jobs include tutor or child care provider.
    • An independent contractor can use an Independent Taxpayer Identification Number (ITIN), which can be obtained regardless of immigration status. Read Life after College: A Guide for Undocumented Students by Immigrants Rising for more information (pages 29-35).
    • If you are interested in starting your own business, a Limited Liability Company (LLC) may be an option to consider. An LLC is composed of an individual or a group of people who are both workers and owners of a business. Read Life after College: A Guide for Undocumented Students by Immigrants Rising for more information (pages 35-37).
    • Review this inclusive Income Generation Options for Undocumented Students Toolkit by Immigrants Rising and University of California System.  

Campus Resources

  • Visit our Dreamer Resource Center to learn about various forms of support available to students throughout the community, including: admissions, financial aid, legal aid, health insurance, and academic advising. 
  • Request access to a free membership of LinkedIn Learning with the Work Experience Office. LinkedIn Learning assists you in expanding your professional development and increases your employability skills. 

Off-Campus Resources

  • Immigrants Rising – Immigrants Rising provides robust resources for undocumented youth and educators in order to empower students to reach their goals.
  • My (Un) Documented Life – This website provides up-to-date information, resources, and a community for undocumented immigrants, including scholarship opportunities, strategies for navigating the educational system, and information on how to apply for DACA.
  • Subscribe to TheDream.Us YouTube Channel to learn more about the national scholarship program for undocumented students.