The process for obtaining the APS visa begins 4 months before the expiration of one’s student visa. After compiling, printing, photocopying, and organizing the various documents required and writing a lettre de motiviation (cover letter), I made my way to the prefecture de police.
After placing the various documents on the counter and saying that I was there to drop off my application for the APS visa, the French man behind the counter said, “On ne prend plus les documents du format papier,” (We no longer accept documents in paper form).
Not being sure I understood correctly, I said, “mais votre site web dit de venir avec tous ces papiers et les déposer à votre bureau” (but your website says to come here with these papers and drop them off at your office).
“Ah oui, mais le site web n’est plus à jour,” (Ah yes, well, the website is no longer up-to-date).
Starting to feel a slight panic, I asked the man what I was supposed to do.
He handed me a printed out regular piece of paper (no fancy French flag header or anything) with instructions telling one to send all the various documents I had just spent good money printing and copying as a PDF to an email address that, I kid you not, was a gmail address. Not @gouv.fr, not @prefecturedepolice.fr, not @france.fr, but @gmail.com!
Trusting the process very little, I still did what I was told.
Fast forward 4 months to the day when my student visa expired and I had my scheduled interview with the prefecture de police to hopefully obtain the APS visa. For this particular meeting, I was supposed to have received a document in the mail from my school, but of course I hadn’t.
I called the school and they told me not to worry, that they’d simply email me a PDF copy of the document that I could then print out and take to the prefecture.
Once at the prefecture, I presented them with my documents where it was immediately remarked upon that the school document was not the “original” copy. After explaining that I hadn’t yet received the school’s document in the mail but that they sent me this PDF version by e-mail, I was told, “on n’accepte plus les formats PDFs,” (we no longer accept pdf versions).
Despite the prefecture de police's policy on PDFs doing a 180 in just four months, I was eventually able to get my APS visa.