Columbus pinned on a map of USA

Introduction

As the 14th largest city in the United States, you would expect the Columbus immigration scene to be vibrant and full of life. And it is, with over 150,000 people, or about 8 percent of the total population of Columbus, having been born overseas. Ultimately, of course, nearly all Columbus residents can trace their ancestry back to an immigrant.

Columbus, Ohio is one of those rare midwest success stories, a “Rust Belt” town that avoided the industrial decline of almost all of its neighbors. Much of that has to do with its robust population growth compared to other Rust Belt cities that are losing population. Immigrants power Cleveland’s population growth — over 80 percent of its new residents are foreign-born.

Girl holding American Dollar Bills

Columbus Immigration: Contributions of Immigrants to the Local Economy

Contrary to the rhetoric of many politicians, immigrants more than “pull their weight”, in the US as a whole and in Columbus in particular. Some of the more revealing facts about the immigrant contribution to the Columbus economy are listed below:

  • immigrant-led households earn over $4 billion every year, most of which is spent in Columbus.
  • immigrant-led households possess over $3 billion in available spending power.
  • Immigrants pay nearly $400 million every year in state and local taxes.
  • Immigrants pay about $800 million every year in federal taxes.
  • Normally, about 70 percent of Columbus immigrants participate in the labor force — greater than the participation rate of native-born citizens.
US Army

Columbus Immigration: A History

Before the US Civil War (1860-1865), most immigrants to Columbus were from northern and western Europe, with German immigrants being the first to settle in what is now the South Side of Columbus.

Columbus Immigration After the Civil War

After the Civil War, however, the demographics of Columbus began to change. The most pronounced demographic change was internal — many blacks from the South came to settle in Columbus during what is now known as the Great Migration.

Starting about the time of the Great Migration and continuing into the late 19th century came a new wave of immigrants, mostly from eastern and southern European countries such as Italy, Greece, Austria-Hungary, Russia, and Poland. Many of these immigrants were culturally distinct from the White Anglo-Saxon Protestant (WASP) mainstream that had comprised previous waves of Columbus immigration.

20th Century Columbus Immigration

Like many of the earliest immigrants to the US, many Columbus immigrants during the early 20th century came to escape religious persecution in their homelands. Unlike earlier immigrants, however, they tended to be Catholic or Jewish. In the late 19th century, the “melting pot” idea prevailed — immigrants were expected to give up their former language and customs (not necessarily their religion) to become Americans.

By the dawn of the 20th century, the melting pot idea was beginning to lose traction. During this process, many immigrants came to see themselves as bicultural — Polish-Americans, Irish-Americans, etc. These immigrants retained the cultural practices of the Old Country (and taught them to their children) while learning English and identifying as Americans at the same time.

Immigrants began to greatly value contact with immigrants from the same country, and ethnic enclaves populated primarily by particular ethnic groups began to multiply and expand. Large and influential numbers of Hungarian and Jewish immigrants played particularly influential roles in building Columbus as it exists today.

Late 20th century and early 21st century Columbus immigration

The Immigration and Nationality Act of 1965 dismantled many racist and nationality-based restrictions on immigration and thereby made visas available to a wider variety of people. After this statute revolutionized immigration law, Ohio began to see a much wider variety of immigrants. This transition mirrored the national trend. Today, immigrants from at least 143 different countries call Columbus home.

People Statistics

Snapshot: Current Statistics for Columbus Immigration

According to the George Mason Institute for Immigration Research:

  • Most immigrants to Columbus are relatively new, with 60 percent having arrived since 2000 (compared with 40 percent for the US as a whole). Most have already obtained green card immigration status or citizenship — only a few are still in the process of seeking permanent residence.
  • Columbus’s foreign-born population, approximately 8 percent of the total population, is significantly smaller than the foreign-born population of the US as a whole, which is about 13 percent and rising rapidly.
  • The unemployment rate among local immigrants is only 6 percent, slightly lower than the average for Columbus residents as a whole.
  • The top five birth countries among Columbus’s foreign-born population are India (13 percent), Mexico (11 percent), China (6 percent), Somalia (6 percent); and Ghana (4 percent).
  • The percentage of Columbus’s foreign-born population who were born in Mexico (11 percent of all immigrants) is far lower than the Mexico-born immigrant population of the rest of the US as a whole (27 percent of all immigrants). The percentage of immigrants born in India (13 percent) is far higher than the percentage of Indian immigrants in the rest of the US (5 percent).
  • Nearly 20 percent of local immigrant adults aged 25 and older possess an advanced degree (a master’s, doctoral or professional degree), and over 40 percent possess at least a bachelor’s degree. Columbus immigrants tend to be significantly more educated than immigrants to the rest of the United States as a whole.
Columbus City Hall

The Columbus, Ohio City Hall

The address of the Columbus, Ohio City Hall is 90 W Broad St, Columbus, OH 43215. The Mayor’s Office is located in City Hall and can be reached by telephone at (+1 )(614)645-7671.

Ohio Gravel Statue

Columbus Immigration Facilities

The Columbus, Ohio USCIS Field Office

The USCIS maintains a Columbus Field Office at 395 E. Broad Street, Suite 100, Columbus, OH 43215. The USCIS also maintains an Application Support Center for fingerprinting and certain other activities) at 50 W. Broad St., Leveque Tower, Suite 650, Columbus, Ohio 43215. Green card applications cannot be turned in to this facility.

Immigration Court

There is no immigration court in Columbus. The only immigration court available in Ohio is located in Cleveland.

ICE Offices

Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) maintains no field offices in Columbus or any of its suburbs.

Detention Center

ICE Immigration Detention Centers

Immigration detention centers hold immigrants who are suspected of violating US immigration law (such as illegal entry to the United States) or who are awaiting removal/deportation proceedings. ICE maintains no immigrant detention centers in Columbus; however, immigration detention centers located in the state include:

Butler County Correctional Complex
Address: 705 Hanover Street, Hamilton, OH, 45011

Morrow County Correctional Facility
Address: 101 Home Road, Mt. Gilead, OH 43338

Bedford Heights City Jail
Address: 5661 Perkins Road, Bedford Heights, OH, 44146

Seneca County Jail
Address: 3040 S. State Route 100, Tiffin, OH 44883

Geauga County Safety Center
Address: 12450 Merritt Road, Chardon, OH, 44024

Strictly speaking, none of these facilities are ICE facilities — they are local correctional facilities with which ICE has established contractual relationships to house immigrants.

Renew Your Passport

Foreign Consulates in Columbus

A consulate functions as a regional embassy of a foreign country where you can, for example, renew your passport. As a second- or third-tier US city by population, Columbus hosts only one foreign consulate — the Honorary Consulate of Austria, located in the Daimler Building at 1533 Lake Shore Drive, Columbus, Ohio 43204.

The closest place where you are likely to be able to contact your home country’s consulate is Chicago, which hosts dozens of consulates.

Nonprofit Immigrant Assistance Groups in Columbus

Columbus hosts a great variety of public and private organizations that serve immigrants, including the following:

The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) Immigrant Health Toolkit provides information concerning the health of immigrant children including clinical care, access to resources, legal assistance, and more.

Avanza Together helps immigrants who are at risk of removal/deportation. It places particular emphasis on keeping families together and on providing important community information to immigrants.

City of Columbus New American Initiative is designed to help immigrants and refugees obtain information about, and access to, local benefits and programs offered by the city of Columbus, regardless of their immigration status.

Columbus Literacy Council (CLC) Many immigrants arrive in Columbus with little or no knowledge of English, no local contacts, and no information about benefits that are available to them. The CLC offers free adult education literacy programs and GED preparation classes, as well as vocational assistance.

Community Refugee & Immigration Services (CRIS) provides immigrants, refugees, and asylees with a variety of services including resettlement assistance, parenting classes, job training, English language classes, health programs, and immigration information, among other programs.

Ethiopian Tewahedo Social Services (ETSS) provides programs dedicated to English language skills, job training, job placement, academic skills training, after-school tutoring, and family support. Click here for a list of locations in Columbus.

Franklin County Department of Job & Family Services (JFS) provides information about certain public assistance programs such as food assistance, medical care, job training, child care assistance, and emergency assistance.

Fugees Academy Columbus is a formal school that is dedicated exclusively to refugees 11 years of age and older. It provides its students with educational and athletic opportunities, as well as hope and self-confidence.

LSS 211 Central Ohio (formerly known as HandsOn Central Ohio) is an information and referral service that connects needy Columbus immigrants with available government and community resources. Someone is available 24/7.

Muslim Family Services (MFS) of Ohio is a social agency that assists Columbus’s Muslim community. It provides information as well as referrals to programs that can meet basic economic needs, immigration information, assistance with document preparation, English language classes, and many more programs.

Noor Islamic Cultural Center (NICC) hosts various activities geared toward the Columbus Muslim community as well as the wider immigrant community. It offers certain forms of information, financial assistance, health services, and more.

Office of Opportunities for New Americans helps immigrants assimilate into American society by offering employment listings, ESL classes, and various forms of education and training.

Ohio Department of Job & Family Services (ODJFS) Ohio Refugee Services Program is aimed at refugees, asylees, Cuban and Haitian immigrants, and victims of human trafficking. The program coordinates federal funding for various food, medical and social service assistance programs.

Refugee Medical Assistance (RMA) offers new, low-income refugees medical coverage under certain circumstances where they are ineligible for other programs such as Medicaid.

The Bridge offers adult English language, citizenship, and GED prep classes, as well as tutoring for school-age children. Also offers a soup kitchen and a free legal clinic.

US Together Columbus Office offers refugee resettlement services such as ESL and other classes, financial assistance, employment assistance, interpreting, and other services.

Vineyard Community Center offers an early childhood center, after-school and summer programs for children, free health care and legal services, ESL and GED prep courses, career assistance, and many other programs and services.

Religious Organization

Diverse Religious Institutions and Houses of Worship in Columbus, Ohio

There are nearly 2,000 religious organizations in the greater Columbus Ohio metro area, not all of which could be classified as houses of worship. Although most of these organizations identify as Christian, Columbus hosts religious organizations representing every major world religion and more.

Following is a list that represents some of this religious diversity:

Chinese Lantern Festival

Ethnic Festival: The Ohio Chinese Lantern Festival

The Ohio Chinese Lantern Festival is probably the most prominent ethnic festival held in Columbus. Although canceled in 2020 due to the Covid-19 crisis, this folk culture festival is normally held at the Natural Resources Park at the Ohio Expo Center and State Fairgrounds.

The attractions of the Ohio Chinese Lantern Festival include breathtaking light sculptures, professional acrobatic performances, a Chinese marketplace, art and handicrafts, various Chinese cultural performances, and a delicious selection of food and beverages.

College Education

Offices of International Student Affairs for Major Columbus Universities

Columbus is home to a number of institutes of higher education, many of which include a significant international student population. The international student offices listed below exist to serve their respective international student populations.

Grocery Store

Ethnic Grocery Stores in Columbus

Columbus can boast of dozens of ethnic grocery stores. Following is some information about a few of them:

  • Saraga International Grocery, 1265 Morse Rd: A wide selection of foods and spices from all over the world.
  • Luc’s Asian Market Groceries, 3275 Sullivant Ave: Thai, Filipino and Vietnamese food.
  • Asian Groceries & Sea Food Market, 3581 Refugee Rd: Supermarket, Asian restaurant, and smoothie and juice bar.
  • International Market Foods, 3120 Olentangy River Rd.: the Indian grocery store.
  • Berekum African Market, 1977 Morse Rd.: African supermarket with meats, condiments, snacks, drinks, etc.
  • La Mega Michoacana, 2175 Morse Rd: a Latino grocery store with a wide selection of fresh produce.
  • Nellai Marts (Bombay Bazaar), 58 Dillmont Dr.: Indian grocery with a wide selection of items.
  • Carfagna’s, 1405 E Dublin Granville Rd.: Italian grocery selling meats, fish, prepared foods, and specialty items.
  • La Michoacana, 5445 Bethel Sawmill Center: Mexican and Latin American groceries.
  • Sunrise Asian Supermarket, 1841 W Henderson Rd: Asian grocery with raw fish, poultry, beef, fresh vegetables, herbs, rice, noodles, etc.
Art Program

The Columbus Sister Cities Program

The Columbus Sister Cities Program is a non-profit cultural initiative that forms bonds between Columbus and other cities throughout the world. Sister cities cooperate with each other in cultural, artistic, educational, governmental, informational, and commercial programs. Currently, Columbus maintains 10 sister city relationships:

  • Accra, Ghana
  • Ahmedabad, India
  • Curitiba, Brazil
  • Dresden, Germany
  • Genoa, Italy
  • Hefei, China
  • Herzliya, Israel
  • Odense, Denmark
  • Seville, Spain
  • Tainan City, Taiwan
Italian Village

Things to See and Do in Columbus

Columbus offers a wide variety of interesting and refreshing options for your leisure time, whether you prefer daytime activities or nightlife. Some of the highlights are listed below:

  • German Village and the Brewery District is a quaint pedestrian district just south of downtown. It is filled with shops, brick houses, restaurants and — you guessed it — breweries. Tourists and locals alike find the area’s charm mesmerizing.
  • The Short North Arts District is a neighborhood located directly north of downtown that is filled with art galleries, theaters, boutiques, hip bars, and restaurants. Like the German Village, the area is best explored on foot.
  • Once an ethnic enclave of its own, Italian Village is a burgeoning nightlife zone filled with craft beer breweries, live houses, pubs, bakery-cafes, and pizzerias.
  • Inniswood Metro Gardens offers more than 100 acres of forest trails and streams to explore.
  • Indian Run Falls, located in the Columbus suburb of Dublin, is a natural gorge with hiking trails, scenic observation platforms, and a bridge over a waterfall.
  • If you need more space, Battelle Darby Creek Metro Park offers more than 7,000 acres of forest, prairies, and wetlands for you to explore.
  • Watch the nationally-renowned Ohio State Buckeyes pulverize an opponent on the football field during football season (autumn).
  • Visit the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium to hand-feed a giraffe or view some of the other 9,000 animals representing 650 species from every corner of the planet, even beneath the waves.
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Time is Precious — Take Action Now

The Herman Legal Group represents clients who need services related to immigration law in OH as well as throughout the United States and even overseas. Our immigration attorneys and staff speak over a dozen languages, and we have been helping immigrants for more than a quarter of a century now. Herman Legal Group is well-known as the preeminent OH immigration law firm.

Contact us 24/7 by calling us at (+1) (800) 808-4013 or (+1)(614) 300-1131, by filling out our information form online, or by dropping in at our Columbus office located at 6660 North High Street, Suite 3E, Worthington, Ohio 43085, so that we can schedule you a free consultation. Quite simply, we are the best immigration lawyers in Columbus, Ohio.

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