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Miami ceremony welcomes over 150 new U.S. citizens

Over the recent Presidents' Day weekend, more than 150 people became American citizens at a ceremony in a Miami auditorium. The new citizens had come to the U.S. from 27 different nations -- the largest group was from Cuba. The ceremony was one of many throughout the U.S. conducted to mark the holiday.

The Miami ceremony came a day after the Mayor of Miami-Dade and other officials announced a citizenship campaign known as Citizenship 1-2-3. Citizenship drives often take place during presidential election years. Immediately after the Miami ceremony, many of the new citizens registered to vote at a table set up outside the auditorium.

According to a report by the U.S. government, there are currently about 8.8 million permanent residents in the U.S. who are eligible to apply for citizenship. About 415,000 residents of Miami-Dade County are eligible, according to a representative of Catholic Legal Services.

A non-U.S. citizen can apply for citizenship through the naturalization process. To become a naturalized citizen the applicant must be at least 18-years-old and have entered the country legally. The applicant must reside here for five years, or three years if they are the spouse of a U.S. citizen. Applicants must have good moral character and pass a naturalization test to demonstrate an understanding of the English language, U.S. history and government.

It is important for people seeking citizenship to understand the legal process and their rights. Obtaining citizenship can be a legally complex and difficult situation. This is especially true for individuals who may have to address issues that could potentially preclude citizenship, like a criminal conviction from years ago.

Source: Miami Herald, "A patriotic pledge: More than 150 immigrants in Miami are newest citizens," Alfonso Chardy, Feb. 14, 2016

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