Joining the French Foreign Legion

Welcome to the information page on how to join the French Foreign Legion. Please note that the ONLY way to join the Foreign Legion is to travel to mainland France (in Europe) and knock on the door of one of the Foreign Legion recruiting centers and offices. There is NO OTHER WAY! No online applications, no letters of invitation, no French embassy’s forms are offered to join the French Foreign Legion. Keep it in mind.

Regarding the current COVID-19 situation, follow these instructions:

1. Recruitment is still open and running.

2. To avoid all possible awkward issues when trying to enter France, each candidate should call the French embassy in his country to get proper information about the current COVID-19 rules being valid for him when willing to travel to France.

3. Check this official COVID-19 FAQ page (in English) of the French diplomacy to read all advices for foreigners willing to travel to France. Spanish, German and Russian versions are included.

https://www.diplomatie.gouv.fr/en/coming-to-france/coronavirus-advice-for-foreign-nationals-in-france/

 

Joining the Foreign Legion: Introduction

The French Foreign Legion accepts recruits from all over the world. The recruitment officially runs 24/7/365 (yes, you can join every day, all year long)

As a candidate/volunteer, you will be enlisted as a single person, even if you are married. The first contract you sign is mandatory for 5 years.

The entire recruiting and selection process takes usually 2 to 4 weeks (the exact period depends on each candidate). The process starts when you pass your passport to a serving legionnaire in a recruiting center or in an information office (see full list below).

The process ends when you are officially accepted or rejected. During the whole period — from passing the passport to a legionnaire until your acceptance or rejection — free accommodation, free food, and free clothing are provided to you by the Legion.

The candidates having passed all the tests are officially accepted or rejected every working Thursday afternoon. As a volunteer, you are allowed to ask to go home every morning during the entire selection process.

 

Foreign Legion recruitment: Table of Contents

  1. Entry Requirements
  2. Entry Tests
  3. What to take with you to the Foreign Legion
  4. Getting a visa to France
  5. Tattoo policy in the Foreign Legion
  6. Recruiting centers: Where to enlist
  7. Career in the French Foreign Legion
  8. Pay in the Foreign Legion
  9. FAQ – Frequently Asked Questions

 
 

French Foreign Legion: Entry Requirements

What DOES matter when joining the Legion

  • to be a man between 17.5 and 39.5 years – read more here:
    Age limits for joining the French Foreign Legion
  • to have a valid ID (identity document)
    • ID Card or Passport for recruits from the European Union (EU)
    • Passport for recruits from all over the world
  • to have a verified copy of your birth certificate (translated into English or French)
    – the verified copy cannot be older than 6 months while enlisting
    – you are allowed to enlist in the Legion without the certificate as well, nonetheless, the document will facilitate your engagement
  • to be NOT wanted by Interpol (murders, drug trafficking, or other really serious crimes are NOT tolerated…)
  • to be physically fit to serve anywhere in the world and in any season (heat, cold), for at least 5 years
  • to be able to write and read in your native language
  • to have BMI between 18 and 30 – read more about body mass index requirements:
    Height and weight requirements for joining the French Foreign Legion

 

What DOES NOT matter when joining the Legion

  • your citizenship (whether you’re a Brazilian, Indian, Russian, Japanese, etc…) doesn’t matter
  • your race origin doesn’t matter
  • your religion doesn’t matter
  • your ignorance of the French language doesn’t matter
  • your educational background doesn’t matter
  • your qualifications doesn’t matter
  • your social status doesn’t matter
  • your professional status doesn’t matter
  • your civil status (single, married, divorced) doesn’t matter
  • your previous military or non-military background doesn’t matter

 
 

French Foreign Legion: Entry Tests

Psycho-technical tests

  • IQ tests
  • Personality tests

 

Sports tests

  • Beep test (Luc léger in French), also Multi-stage fitness test; a rhythmic running between two points that are 20 meters apart from side to side; running speed is determined by audio beeps at set intervals, with increasing frequency – you have to complete at least 5 levels officially (better do 7 levels)
  • Swimming – you have to swim at least 25 meters, without any support or safety equipment
  • Pull-ups (doing with straight arms) – no more elimination part of tests, officially; however, still an important element of the selection

 

Medical tests

  • you will pass a thorough medical examination
  • for eyesight/vision requirements, read here:
    Eyesight: French Foreign Legion vision requirements
  • be sure you have healthy teeth (or treated)
    • maximum number of missing teeth allowed is 4 to 6 (depending on the condition of the other teeth)
    • proportion of your completely healthy teeth must be at least 40% or more
  • provide medical documentation concerning your previous surgical operation to reassure the medical staff that you are now completely fit and that the procedure had no negative side-effects – otherwise you risk being sent to a hospital in Marseille to get this documentation at your own expense
  • provide medical documentation (medical certificate) concerning your previous serious health issues to reassure the medical staff that you currently have no permanent effects (or recurring difficulties) as a result of that issues

 

Examples of the reasons for disqualification
  • tuberculosis
  • hepatitis
  • cancer
  • HIV
  • diabetes
  • overload weight
  • a psychiatric disorder during treatment
  • to have very poor eyesight (see the post linked above)
  • bad hearing (you will pass a hearing test – it tests your sense of hearing by using an audiometer)
  • total loss of a finger
  • laxity (instability) of the knee
  • recurrent dislocation of the patella
  • hernia recovery with after-effects (recurrent hernia problems)

 
 

What to take with you to the French Foreign Legion

The number-one rule in packing for an enlistement in the Foreign Legion is to pack light.

What you HAVE TO take with you

  • all documents already stated above (ID card, …)
  • 3 x T-shirts, 3 x briefs/slips and 3 x pairs of socks
  • a pair of running shoes
  • about 10-50 euros
  • toiletries/personal care:
    • soap/shower gel
    • razor + shaving cream
    • toothbrush
    • toothpaste
    • bath towel
    • bath shoes/slippers

 

What you SHOULDN’T take with you

  • computer/laptop/tablet
  • camera
  • big amount of money (300+ euros/400+ USD)
  • credit cards
  • valuables, jewellery

 

What you MUST NOT take with you

  • weapons: gun, knife…
  • car or motorcycle keys
  • house keys

 
 

Getting a visa to France

Traveling expenses and getting visa (if you need it) are YOUR responsibility.

If you need a visa to travel to France, apply for a tourist visa (or a short stay visa).

To get the visa, see France Diplomatie – Getting a visa. The page is in English and contains all the necessary information.

 
 

Tattoo policy in the French Foreign Legion

For more detailed information about the tattoo policy in the Foreign Legion see:
French Foreign Legion Tattoo and Tattoo Policy

 
 

Recruiting centers: Where to enlist in the Foreign Legion

You must travel at your own expense to continental France, in Europe. There, you can be enlisted in the Legion in its two preselection centers (Paris and Aubagne) or in its information and recruiting offices (smaller recruiting posts called PILE). These centers are usually open all year round and all day long, even on weekends and holidays. That means you can enlist in the Legion every day of the year. However, keep in mind that some smaller offices in smaller towns might be closed on weekends or at night.

Once you are allowed to enlist — which refers to once your passport/ID and clothes are taken away — free accommodation, free food, and free clothing are immediately provided to you by the Legion.

Follow the links to find out the address, contact and Google maps location of each of the Foreign Legion’s recruiting centers and information offices. Once again, note that these are the only places where you can enlist in the French Foreign Legion.

Foreign Legion preselection centers

You might stay up to 10 days in the preselection center in Paris, before joining the main selection process that takes place in Aubagne, the Legion HQ (yes, the second preselection center and the main selection center of the Legion are based there).

Foreign Legion recruiting offices belonging to Paris

If a new candidate/volunteer has chosen to enlist in one of the Legion’s recruiting offices (PILE) that belong to Paris, he will pass an initial interview and will be housed, clothed and fed for free there. Within 7 days, these candidates are sent with a free train ticket to Paris to join an initial preselection.

Foreign Legion recruiting offices belonging to Aubagne

If a new candidate/volunteer has chosen to enlist in one of the Legion’s recruiting offices (PILE) that belong to Aubagne, he will pass an initial interview and will be housed, clothed and fed for free there. Within 7 days, these candidates are sent with a free train ticket to Aubagne to join an initial preselection and, if they pass it, the crucial selection process.

 
 

Career in the French Foreign Legion

Any legionnaire can build a successful career regardless of their school diplomas and professional or civilian qualifications. You will be able to succeed thanks to military or technical examinations completed throughout your service. If you want to fulfill your potential and if you are motivated, hard-working, and serious, the following careers are possible.

Combat specialities

  • sniper
  • tank driver
  • paratrooper
  • sapper
  • machine gunner
  • anti-tank rocket launcher
  • armored vehicle driver
  • and other…

Administration

  • secretary
  • accountant
  • data-processing support
  • computer support
  • and other…

Signals

  • radio operator
  • radio mechanic
  • telephone exchange operator
  • and other…

Control

  • light vehicle driver
  • truck driver
  • articulated truck driver
  • bus driver
  • dredge driver
  • and other…

Maintenance

  • mechanic
  • electrician
  • welder
  • painter
  • small arms expert
  • and other…

Miscellaneous

  • paramedic
  • data processing specialist
  • physical education instructor
  • graphic designer
  • musician
  • photographer
  • cook
  • and other…

25% of legionnaires will become non-commissioned officers (N.C.O.). All NCOs in the Legion started as simple legionnaires (except for a few NCOs, nicknamed cadres blancs, coming from the French Army and assigned to Legion regiments as well-trained specialists).

10% of Legion officers started their career as simple legionnaires and worked their way up through the ranks.

 
 

Pay in the French Foreign Legion

A legionnaire (as well as a corporal) is housed, clothed, fed, and medically cared for free.

Your salary depends upon your rank, qualifications, place of service, and years of service.

Foreign Legion pay examples (the most basic salary dating back to 2010; they are increased by 8-10 % now):

RANK SERVICE 1°RE 2°REP * 3°REI ** Foreign theater ***
Legionnaire 10 months 1205 € 1460 € 1433 € 3567 €
Caporal 03 years 1226 € 1480 € 1452 € 3626 €
Caporal-chef 10 years 1303 € 1607 € 1600 € 3939 €
Sergent 07 years 1351 € 1648 € 1650 € 3929 €
Sergent-chef 10 years 1779 € 2095 € 1945 € 4186 €
Adjudant 17 years 2007 € 2140 € 2180 € 4748 €
Adjudant-chef 21 years 2078 € 2427 € 2477 € 4818 €
  • * Parachute bonus
  • ** Overseas allowance (French territories)
  • *** Foreign theater operations – Overseas allowance (abroad)

Note that in the pay examples, various tax deductions are already included.

As of 2018, you could start collecting a regular retirement pension after 17 years and 6 months of honorable service.

 

2018 French Foreign Legion Recruiting Video (with English subtitles)

 
 

FAQ – Frequently Asked Questions

1. Q: Do I need to speak French to join the French Foreign Legion?
   A: No. In fact, the vast majority of candidates do not speak French.

2. Q: What are my chances of getting selected?
   A: You will only be selected if you are good enough for the Legion, and it is the Legion itself who decides who is good enough to be selected. For about 100 candidates applying to serve in the Legion, only 10-15 are accepted. So, you have to be better than the other candidates in all aspects to get a chance — NOT the right — to be selected. There are no “bring this or that, pass this or that, make this or that” tricks to get accepted. The candidates are selected by a commission consisting of around 15 members of the Legion’s HQ who verify all of the individual aspects and results of each candidate. Then, the majority of these senior members have to reach a consensus and vote in favor or against a candidate’s acceptance in the Legion.

3. Q: Are there any tricks to pass the tests and get into the Legion?
   A: As already stated in point 2, there are no tricks to get accepted. The selection process is far more extensive and does not only reflect meeting the basic tests. It focuses on your entire personality, including your real behavior, real attitude, and real motivation. The Legion must want you. If it does, then, you will be selected.

4. Q: Why do I get a new identity?
   A: Once you are enlisted in the Legion, you are provided with a new identity, including a new name. That applies to all candidates, without distinction. After one year of service, you can ask to get your real identity back. This process is referred to as RSM (rectification, or recognizing in English). You can obtain your real identity back within 1-3 years. If you are in trouble with the law/police at home, you can keep your new identity during the service.

5. Q: How can I contact my family once I’ve joined the Legion?
   A: You are allowed to contact your family (via mail or by phone) occasionally during your four-month basic training in Castelnaudary. Once you are serving as an ordinary legionnaire in your respective regiment, you can contact your family by mail, phone, or through the internet whenever you have free time. Nevertheless, restrictive rules are applied for contacting your family during overseas deployments and operations.

6. Q: Do I have evenings, weekends, and holidays off in the Foreign Legion?
   A: Once you’ve completed your four-month basic training, you are allowed to relax or leave your military base during your free time, and travel around France during weekends and holidays, if you are not on duty.

7. Q: Can I use mobile phones, laptops, or notebook computers?
   A: Yes, the Legion is not a prison. After finishing your four-month basic training, you are allowed to buy this equipment and use them during your free time.

8. Q: Do I have annual leave (vacations/holidays)?
   A: The Legion offers legionnaires 20 working days during their first year of service, 25 during their second year, and from the third year onward, you will be provided with 45 working days of annual leave (vacations/holidays) per year.

9. Q: How about the visa and plane tickets when joining the Legion?
   A: The shortest French visa (for tourism) allows you to stay in the country for 90 days. It is your sole responsibility to find, pay, and obtain all required travel documents and visas (tourist or short-stay visa) for entering France. The Legion offers no refund, money, scholarship, online application, letter of invitation, or documents from the French embassy to help you get to France.

10. Q: Do I get a second (or third) chance to re-enter the selection process?
   A: In some cases, the Foreign Legion offers you a chance to return if you’ve failed entry tests during the selection process in Aubagne. If the Legion gives you a second (or third) chance, you receive a document with the title “INAPTE TEMPORAIRE” stating that you can return after 3, 6, or 12 months. Who can return and after how many months is solely up to the Legion. If the Legion decides not to give you another chance, you will receive a document titled “INAPTE DEFINITIF.” That means the Legion is closed to you forever.

11. Q: Can I obtain French citizenship?
   A: After 3 years of service, you can make a formal request for naturalization. You have to serve honorably and have to be “recognized person” (to serve under your real identity, recognized by the French government) to qualify for getting French citizenship. Be sure, however, that you have to serve more than five years (usually eight years) to be approved to obtain it. The second eventuality for naturalization/getting French citizenship is to get seriously wounded during a military operation.

12. Q: Can a foreign military deserter join the Foreign Legion?
   A: Absolutely. The Legion does recruit those who have left other military.

13. Q: Can I join the Foreign Legion if I don’t have any ID papers?
   A: Yes. The Legion can even accept this possibility. But, such a person should be expecting much more attention and interrogations than an ordinary candidate, because he triggers a “red alert” among the recruiters.

14. Q: Can I choose my preferred regiment or company?
   A: During the selection process and the four-month basic training, you are repeatedly asked to choose the regiment you would like to serve (except for the Mayotte Detachment, as this unit is reserved for senior legionnaires only). If you already have a chosen one when enlisting in the Legion, let the recruiters know about it. If you are consistent in your will and there is a spot for you, your demand could be accepted. On the other hand, you can’t choose your favorite company.

15. Q: How about choosing my preferred specialty?
   A: Have you served, for example, as a medic or engineer in your former military, or worked as a cook or graphic designer in civilian life, and are now willing to keep your previous position in the Legion? Great! The recruiters will be happy as they know you already have experience and some needed skills.

16. Q: Can I bring a dictionary with me?
   A: Absolutely. Take a good one with you, along with a book for self-learners to learn French.

17. Q: How about money?! Will I get cash, and if so, how can I keep it?
   A: Once you are selected and about to leave for basic training, a bank account is established for you to receive monthly payments. You will also get a credit/debit card to withdraw money, associated with your new identity/new name, given to you by the Legion.

18. Q: How about sending money to my family back at home?
   A: Not a problem. You can send them money every month. In fact, many legionnaires do so on a regular basis. Once in the regiment, just ask your more experienced compatriots how to do so the best way. If you represent a single nationality in the regiment (which is improbable), you can always ask your friends or corporal. However, there is usually a post office in the regiment which will best facilitate this purpose.

19. Q: Can I visit/see my family?
   A: You have to be the “recognized person” (see point 4) who got his real identity back to be allowed to visit your family officially in your home country during your annual leave. If you are a “bad guy” with some troubles at home, just ask your family to visit you in France to meet together during your free time. They can also meet you at your regiment directly during holidays, like Camerone Day (April 30), which is open for public.

 

The French Foreign Legion offers you a chance to start a new life… Good luck!

 

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Information source:
Légion recrute, the Legion’s official recruiting website

 

The page was updated on: August 27, 2021

 

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