Two immigrants on expired student visas won’t have time spent out of lawful status counted against them while they litigate a new government policy covering those visas.

A federal judge in North Carolina Jan. 28 ordered that U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services’ policy temporarily not apply to Jia Ye and Sen Li. Both face being barred from re-entering the U.S. for three years if the policy remains fully in effect.

The lawsuit, originally filed in October, challenges an August...