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Path to U.S. citizenship requires immigrants to take many steps

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According to data from the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, roughly 680,000 people become naturalized citizens of the U.S. each year. Maryland residents constitute a relatively small portion of that total--over 15,400 residents have been naturalized through the first three quarters of 2012. Since 2008, approximately 88,000 Maryland residents have received their U.S. citizenship through the USCIS office in Baltimore.

As many naturalized citizens can attest, the process is a rewarding one that signifies at once the completion of a goal and the springboard to other hopes, dreams and aspirations. Once a person begins the naturalization process by filing an application, it typically takes about five months until approved persons can take the Oath of Allegiance.

Of course, there are a number of other steps along the way. Most applicants first become a permanent resident through the issuance of a green card. While holding that green card for a number of years, they spend time learning English and reading up on how the U.S. government works and on the history of the country. This knowledge will be vital for the citizenship examination, which tests an applicant's grasp of U.S. civics.

Successful applicants must also swear that they will support the Constitution and, if necessary, serve in the U.S. military in defense of the country. In some cases, USCIS may deny a person's application for citizenship. Some of the grounds for denial include demonstrating insufficient knowledge of U.S. government and history, avoiding taxes, showing a poor moral character and obtaining a green card improperly.

Source: The Baltimore Sun, "Naturalized American helps immigrants gain citizenship," Yvonne Wenger, Sept. 29, 2012

• In some circumstances, flaws that would otherwise result in a denial of citizenship can be reconsidered by USCIS officers if applicants make a convincing case to authorities. You can learn more by visiting our Washington, D.C. naturalization and citizenship page.

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