One of the biggest concerns that folks often have when renewing their visas is that they may have to leave the U.S. before they can apply to renew. It's a mixed bag in terms of who can stay and who must leave, so it's wise to retain the services of an immigration lawyer regardless of which side you might land on. Let's take a look at what will likely determine that.
How You Entered the Country
With very few exceptions, folks who entered the country illegally will have to return to the countries they came from before filing for visas. If you attained a visa after enter illegally, such as with a refugee status application, you might have a chance of pursuing your renewal without leaving.
If you have overstayed a visa, contact an immigration attorney right away. Until you have an application in the system, there is a risk that you will be deported from the U.S. and banned from entry for as many as 10 years.
For those who entered the U.S. legally, there are some cases where they have to leave and reapply and others where they may stay. Someone who has immediate relatives who are U.S. citizens, for example, may renew or change their visas without having to leave. This applies even if their previous visas are now expired.
A person who has completed their stay on a work visa or has hit its limits may have to leave. Renewals are typically allowed for a limited number of years before you must either leave or seek a change in your immigration status. For example, someone on a work visa may want to consider permanent resident status if they wish to continue remaining in the U.S. for years to come.
Folks who arrived on travel visas almost always have to leave before they can apply for a different type of visa. An immigration officer will stamp your passport with a time that stipulates when you must leave the nation. The same sorts of rules apply to folks traveling on business visas.
Always Seek Counsel
The American immigration law system has lots of pitfalls, and you don't want to risk dealing with an immigration officer or a court without counsel. Contact an immigration lawyer and explain to them what your situation is, making sure to note the type of visa you last received. They'll then tell you how to proceed in terms of leaving or staying.