I was lucky because I was already in Europe so it didn't take long at all. I could have the 'interview' almost as soon as I wanted, and then it only took 5 days after this to get the actual visa.
If I had been in Australia the process would have taken much much longer (I booked an appointment online just in case I needed it and the earliest appointment was almost 2 months away!) and they also require more documents.
Before I got the visa appointment though, I had to make sure I actually got into the school I was applying for so I made the appointment for about 10 days later, thinking and hoping that that would give me enough time.
I had my interview with the school (an école supérieure) via Skype which was a really nerve wracking process. I was sweating like crazy and the woman was kinda scary and asked some rather person questions (I've since learned that this is a French thing as everyone seems to have no qualms asking you personal questions such as your age, marital status, who you live with etc).
After the interview I was sure I didn't pass but luckily I did...
Most countries have to go through campusfrance to get their visa but none of the countries I'm associated with do so it was a lot quicker and easier.
Not really knowing what to expect though, I watched this series of helpful videos just in case.
I expected the visa people to be rather scary (as they seemed to be during our correspondence by email) but it wasn't too bad. The lady was really nice and helpful and seemed like she really wanted me to get it!
She basically just made sure I had all my papers (I was up all night printing stuff and making sure I had everything they required in triplicate). For some things they required 2 copies and for some they required 3 (and every embassy/consulate is different so double check the list for your city's French embassy/consulate!) so I just gave them 3 of everything. For the 'attestation de domicile' (I was staying with a friend) and the letter (see below) they wanted the original but for the rest they accepted photocopies or print outs.
It doesn't seem like a lot of work but trust me it was. I'm sure anyone who's been through the same situation will agree and I got a sense of déjà vu when I was doing the same thing more than 5 years ago when I came to France the first time... getting all the paperwork, seeing various people to get things signed, printing off bank statements, blah blah blah...
and on top of that... wait for it! They wanted a 'lettre de motivation' about why I wanted to study in France and it had to be manuscrite ie handwritten. I typed it up first in Word and then copied it... I have read many books about graphology though hahaha.. not sure if that helped. In any case I just tried to keep it neat and uniform.
It took me forever to write the uni application letter because I had to ask French friends to correct my French and then send back my corrections and go back and forth... and if this person wasn't available I'd ask another friend, etc...
but for the visa I couldn't be bothered and didn't have enough time so I just summarised and rehashed my letter for the school! It was only 1 page printed out but 3 pages handwritten!
So in the end everything was fine and I got my shiny visa sticker in my passport!
But it wasn't over yet! After arriving in France you have to do the second part and I did this the other day.
As soon as you arrive you're supposed to send them the documents they require, then they'll get back to you with an appointment date and time. Luckily I was free then. Mine was at 13:30 and I'd kind of already forgotten that most offices are closed at lunch time here.
I'd heard nightmarish stories from other people, and reading bloggers' stories but they were mostly all in Paris and I live in Lyon. However, I also heard a nightmarish story from a friend in Lyon so I got there about 20 mins early.
There were already some people waiting there, most of them with Middle Eastern or North African appearance ... and they didn't understand what a queue was. Especially the old ones. Here I (and all the young people) was diligently queuing up but nooooo since these people didn't respect the queue I was like stuff it.
As soon as the staff opened the doors everyone just rushed in. It was like sales time or something. I had seen on the door that my section for the health exam was on the first floor so I immediately went to the first floor and was about the 4th person to be served. Not bad.
It was absolutely nothing like the organised system and much larger office/building/rooms of the immigration department in Geneva that I was used to! so I started feeling kinda of anxious wondering how many hours I'd be there for...
I looked at the posters on the wall. One was for translation services and another was for free vaccinations. I took a photo of both of them because I thought it might be handy to have the info.
I eavesdropped on a conversation between an American student and a South American? student who were speaking to each other in French. Oh, something I noticed is that the assumed everyone young spoke French but for all the old people they asked if they could speak French.
But amazingly I was served in just a few short minutes and everything ran like clockwork. All in all I was there for a total of 30 minutes. Pretty pleased with that!
1. I was called into a small office by the first doctor. She didn't ask much. Just if I was pregnant or if there was any possibility I could be. Definitely not. She also handed me a little piece of paper with phone numbers for if I wanted to do an HIV test. It's not compulsory and it can be anonymous. OK... thanks, I took the paper but I don't think I need it.
Then she asked if I wear glasses or contacts (no) gave me a quick eye test. It was so easy I told her I could almost read the code number of the eyechart (in tiny tiny font about half the size of the top line, the smallest font) on the top corners of the chart.
Then she took me into another room and asked me my height and took my weight, and calculated my BMI.
Then she brought me into a changing cubicle with 2 doors. I was asked to take off my necklace and watch, and clothes off the top half. I didn't exactly like it but rules are rules.
2. Then a (female) radiographer on the other side opened the door and asked me to tie my hair up in a high bun. She asked me again if I was pregnant and I said no.
Then I was asked to stand and press my chest and elbows against a large, cold, hard metal plate. She tied on a protective lead apron thingy from my waist down to protect my organs.
She took an x-ray of my lungs and then asked me to get changed.
3. Then I went to see yet another doctor (male), a GP I guess. He asked me about my family medical history and especially if any of my parents have diabetes (no). I said I have allergies (esp. right now) and he asked if I had anything serious and I said no.
He did the usual check-up things, listened to my chest (front and back), pushed into my stomach (what are they looking for when they do that??), pushed on the lymph nodes on my throat, took my blood pressure (100/50). He also looked at my BMI and my lung x-ray. I saw a little white spot on the x-ray and asked him what it was. I'm not quite sure I understood what he said but it was completely normal. I said is it normal that the x-ray is not symmetrical and he said that most people are not entirely symmetrical. He seemed a bit annoyed I was asking so many questions! hahaha
He also asked me what vaccinations I had and when. I said I can't remember the exact dates but I'm pretty sure they were all up to date. He said if you had your last vaccinations (Hep A, Hep B, Tetanus, Polio, Measles/Mumps/Rubella) around the age of 25 then you don't need to get the done again until you are 45 so I don't need to worry about it now.
4. Finally, that was done. He brought me back to the front desk, gave my paper to the lady who then had the récépissé sticker (which was already ready before the day) and put it in my passport! Woohoo! And of course they put in the wrong address (my friend's) even though I wrote them a letter over a month ago telling them I had moved.
She also asked me for one passport photo, rent contract (or an attestation de domicile if you are staying with someone else), and the timbre for OFII (58 euros, which I bought online and was quick and painless. I had to print it out myself). I made sure I came prepared with all these things, and copies and more! hahaha
But it's all done! I'm so happy and now I'm a legal EU resident. :)
(OFII = Office Français de l'Immigration et de l'Intégration)