The long and winding road to U.S. citizenship is not without its dips, potholes and construction detours — that road has lots of them, actually.

When you submit your application, the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) takes tedious care in checking your background, and if the slightest detail doesn’t match, your application is immediately deemed invalid and the process begins again. If by any chance your paperwork gets lost, get out your checkbook and restart your paperwork.

Should you fail a brief quiz testing your knowledge of the “fundamentals of U.S. history and the form and principles of the U.S. government,” you’re out. And, according to the Naturalization Eligibility Worksheet available on the USCIS website, if you’re not a person “of good moral character,” then you can’t be a citizen, either.

How much more difficult can the USCIS make applying for citizenship?

Despite a 2002 promise that President Bush made to put citizenship applications on a fast track for military personnel, it is no less difficult for our country’s enlisted immigrants to become naturalized.

It is obvious that this nation has become desperate to keep troops’ boots marching at home and abroad, but Bush’s blatantly empty promises have gone too far.

In a world of long lines, costly bureaucracy, and infinite paperwork, the road to citizenship is becoming more expensive, taking longer and has more room for errors. All immigrants, enlisted or not, will have a tougher time getting citizenship.

Despite an 18-month processing time (up from seven months last year), 66 percent fee increases, and at the least a 30-to 90-day FBI name check, 2.5 million legal residents applied for citizenship and visas last summer, double the number last year.

Currently 312,000 citizenship and green card applications are pending FBI name checks. Of the applicants, 140,000 have been waiting over six months. One possible explanation is if names are similar to those on the FBI’s “bad” lists, the application is held indefinitely.

After jumping over the hurdles placed by the USCIS, 31,200 military members were sworn in as citizens between October 2002 and December 2007.

That number could have jumped significantly had numerous appointments not been missed. Since the USCIS sends notifications of application holds and scheduled appointments to home addresses, many soldiers on tours abroad weren’t home to check their mail. Due to these miscommunications, applications must often be resubmitted, forcing the applicant back to square one.

A Feb. 24 article in the New York Times interviewed 27-year-old Abdool Habibullah. Habibullah applied for citizenship in 2005 when he returned from a tour in Iraq. Despite an honorable discharge, he has not yet had his paperwork processed by the USCIS.

It is almost understandable that our president has made and will continue to make false promises. Unfortunately, the costly and time-consuming bureaucracy of the USCIS isn’t leaving at the end of January 2009. It is here to stay indefinitely.

“I’ve pretty much given up on finding out where my paperwork is, what’s gone wrong, what happened to it,” Habibullah said in the Times article. “If what I’ve done for this country isn’t enough for me to be a citizen, then I don’t know what is.”