MARQUETTE — The United States welcomed 12 new citizens in a naturalization ceremony in Marquette this afternoon.

The 12 new Americans hail from 8 different countries. They range from Canada to Finland, from Russia to the Philippines, and from Greece to Argentina.

One of the new citizens lives in Houghton and is an electrical engineering professor at Michigan Tech.

“I’ve been waiting for this for many years,” Fernando Ponta said. “These are my convictions. I arrived to the United States for the first time in my life in 2001. I had been, first, at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign before coming here to Michigan Tech.”

Becoming a citizen is a long process that starts with obtaining a green card. Everyone needs to have a sponsor. They also need to learn English and pass a written test on U.S. history and government.

“It’s something very significant for me because I took this step out of conviction,” Ponta said. “I really identify with the ideas and the history of this country. Really, this is the culmination; this is really the center of a dream.”

Congressman Dan Benishek and Senators Carl Levin and Debbie Stabenow sent representatives to U.S. District Court in Marquette to congratulate everyone who took the citizenship oath.