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We characterize the maximum controlled invariant (MCI) set for discrete- as well as continuous-time nonlinear dynamical systems as the solution of an infinite-dimensional linear programming problem. For systems with polynomial dynamics and compact semialgebraic state and control constraints, we describe a hierarchy of finite-dimensional linear matrix inequality (LMI) relaxations whose optimal values converge to the volume of the MCI set; dual to these LMI relaxations are sum-of-squares (SOS) problems providing a converging sequence of outer approximations to the MCI set. The approach is simple and readily applicable in the sense that the approximations are the outcome of a single semidefinite program with no additional input apart from the problem description. A number of numerical examples illustrate the approach.