As an immigration lawyer, I field many inquiries per week where the potential client states “I want to get my green card.” The term often makes me smile because 1.) the card is no longer green and 2.) the term is used to convey so many things in the immigration context that a further explanation from the client of what they mean is almost always required.
Typically, “green card” means the status of lawful permanent resident (LPR), which allows the foreign national to live and work in the United States permanently (unless, of course, they somehow lose the right). Although there are many different ways to get a valid green card, typically foreign nationals acquire LPR status either through an immediate family relationship with a US Citizen or current “green card” holder, or through employment.
For family-based immigration, the most common way to get your green card is to marry a US Citizen or LPR and apply for a marriage visa or adjust status if already here in the US. For employment-based immigration, an immigrant must either be sponsored by an employer or be eligible to self-sponsor.
Other ways to “get a green card” include winning the DV lottery (diversity visa green card lottery) or qualifying for asylum.