Well, when I was born, the government gave me a birth certificate. But apparently, that certificate is not good enough. To get my "Carte de Séjour" in France, I need an officially translated (read expensive) copy of my long birth certificate, which has the names and birth places of my parents. So, I now have to shell out $35 to get another copy of my birth certificate, then a lot more money to get it translated (as if they can't figure out that Vancouver, Canada is a place, and that March 31, 1983 is my birth date...)
Anyway, once I get to France, I need to apply for a "Carte de Séjour", on top of the long stay visa. This card in my passport will let me legally live in France for more than 3 months, and re-enter France if I decide to go out of the country. But, to get the card I need a visa (which I'll hopefully have), proof of residence in France, my birth certificate (as I mentioned above), my nomination paper, the contract that I signed with the school, and a medical exam (which has to be done with a French doctor, even though I had to get an exam with a Canadian doctor to even apply to the programme - read even more money).
On top of all this, I also have to apply for civil insurance, enrol in the social security program (it also works as medical insurance), enrol in a pension scheme (I don't I'll see any of the money when I retire, but I don't have a choice), get a bank account, etc. All of these require more paperwork, and documents that I've had to show to get my other cards.
You've got to love bureaucracy!