Job & Family Services Refugee Services

Welcome to Ohio Refugee Services

Refugee Services Logo  

Refugees are resettled to Ohio as part of a national and international effort to help individuals displaced from their countries to find a new home and a new life. Individuals and families may be displaced by war; political, religious, or economic turmoil; and other factors beyond their control.  The Refugee Program Services Section within the Office of Family Assistance is the ODJFS unit responsible for coordination and administration of refugee services in Ohio.  

The goal of the Refugee Program Services Section is to provide services that help refugees and others granted refugee status achieve economic self-sufficiency and social adjustment within the shortest time possible following their arrival in the U.S.  

Populations Served  

Refugees are people who are unable or unwilling to return to their country of nationality because of persecution or a well-founded fear of persecution on account of race, religion, nationality, membership in a particular social group, or political opinion.  Many refugees have lived under harsh conditions for extended periods in camps outside their native borders before being accepted by a host country for permanent resettlement.  Refugees entering the U.S. have been given permission to do so by the federal Department of Homeland Security.  

Asylees are individuals who arrive in the U.S. on their own and then ask for asylum (official refuge or protection) because of their refugee-like circumstances.  They are eligible for refugee services once asylum is granted by the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services.  

Cuban and Haitian entrants are nationals of those countries residing in the U.S. who have been granted special status. 

The Ohio Refugee Services Program also serves foreign born victims of trafficking, persons who have been subjected to force, fraud, or coercion for the purpose of sexual exploitation or forced labor, as well as certain Amerasians from Vietnam.

Secondary migrants are people who fall into any of the categories listed above and who move to Ohio from their original place of U.S. resettlement. 

 Services and Benefits  

The goal of the Refugee Services Program is to help refugees and others granted refugee status achieve economic self-sufficiency and social adjustment within the shortest time possible following their arrival in the U.S.  All of the populations listed above are eligible for the following assistance:

   Refugee Cash Assistance: Ohio operates a publicly administered cash assistance program for refugees modeled after the federal Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) program, known in Ohio as Ohio Works First (OWF). Refugees not eligible for TANF/OWF can receive refugee cash assistance for their first 8 months in the U.S.

Refugee Medical Assistance: If not eligible for Medicaid, refugees are eligible for refugee medical assistance for the first eight months after arriving in the U.S. They will receive a monthly card that provides the same medical coverage as provided by the Medicaid program.  After refugee medical assistance is no longer available, refugees may be eligible for health care coverage under Medicaid.

As soon as possible after arrival in Ohio, refugees receive a comprehensive health screening as a follow-up to the exam they received overseas.  The purpose of the screening is to identify for treatment any communicable disease that may threaten public health and other medical conditions that may act as barriers to successful resettlement.  ODJFS contracts with healthcare providers in resettlement counties to perform these screenings and make appropriate referrals for follow-up care. 

Refugee Social Services: For five years after arrival, refugees are eligible for the following services:

  • acculturation   
  • English language training
  • employment training 
  • job placement
  • transportation  
  • child care
  • citizenship classes

Refugees are also eligible for the following services beyond five years:

  • translation & interpreter services
  • referral services
  • citizenship & naturalization services

   Where to Apply

Refugees can apply for medical assistance, cash assistance, and food stamps at their county department of job and family services.


All refugee services provided through the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services are 100% federally funded through the Office of Refugee Resettlement.

The information presented here is an overview.  For details on the Ohio Refugee Services Program, please refer to Ohio Administrative Code Refugee Program Rules, and the Ohio Refugee State Plan.