How to Join the French Foreign Legion and What to Expect Upon Arrival

The French Foreign Legion is the only unit of the French Army open to people of any nationality. It is exclusively composed of men –

Eric Sof

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How to become member of the French Foreign Legion
How to become member of the French Foreign Legion? (Photo: XY)

The French Foreign Legion is the only unit of the French Army open to people of any nationality. It is exclusively composed of men – women are not permitted to join. While most members of the Foreign Legion come from European countries, a growing percentage comes from Latin America. Most of the Foreign Legion’s commissioned officers are French, with about 10% being former legionnaires who have risen through the ranks.

Introduction

The legend of life in the French Foreign Legion has long been shrouded in mystery, making it difficult to distinguish fact from fiction. However, this mystique has also been the Legion’s best recruitment tool. Those seeking firsthand information on what to expect if they join the French Foreign Legion’s military lifestyle may be disappointed and make an expensive, uninformed decision.

Joining the French Foreign Legion is a quest that requires a strong motive and will to endure the challenges that await. To join the FFL and meet their enlistment standards, the first step is to visit one of their recruiting centers in France. Once you arrive at the center, you should approach the soldier guarding the base and explain your purpose. They will then escort you to the recruitment office.

How to Join French Foreign Legion: How to join and what to expect when you get there
How to Join French Foreign Legion: French Legionnaires marching on the French Foreign Legion day (Photo: Pinterest)

Upon arrival, you will be provided with necessary clothing and accommodations as you undergo tests and evaluations to determine if you meet the general and special conditions for access to French Foreign Legion training. This is the first step towards becoming a legionnaire, and in the following days, you will also need to learn and adhere to the FFL code of honor. This article provides all the information you need to join the French Foreign Legion successfully.

  • Preselection is carried out in our recruiting offices throughout France
  • Selection is carried out in Aubagne near Marseille :
    • psycho-technical tests
    • medical tests
    • sports tests (Luc-leger “navette”)
  • If your candidature is upheld, the first contract is a minimum of 5 years.
  • Successive contracts are for six months and up to 5 years.
  • You must be on successive contracts for six months (for minors under 18, parental consent is required on a form available in French Gendarmeries or Embassies outside France)
  • Whatever your marital status is (single, married, divorced..), you will be enlisted as a single man.
  • You must have a valid ID.
  • You must be physically fit to serve at all times and places.

If you want to join the French Foreign Legion, the next step is preselection.

Preselection

The preselection process for the French Foreign Legion typically takes place at their recruiting offices in France, while the main selection process is conducted in Aubagne, near Marseille. This is where potential candidates for the French Foreign Legion undergo various psychological and physical tests, medical evaluations, and sports tests (such as the Luc-Leger “shuttle run”). If they pass these tests, they will begin their journey as a member of the French Foreign Legion.

The French Foreign legion - PRESELECTION
Life in the French Foreign Legion will be full of learning lessons and training (Photo: Pinterest/FFL)

If you are fit enough to pass all tests and the French Foreign Legion accepts your application, the first contract you will sign will be for a minimum of five years. You can renew your contract for six months to five years at the end of each term. There is also an option for a six-month contract during training (for those under 18 years, the consent of both parents is required, and the form can be obtained at the French embassy or Gendarmeries outside of France). However, this does not mean that you will immediately become a full-time legionnaire. The next step in your journey is basic training.

GCP of the 2ème REP is the elite unit of the French Foreign Legion
GCP of the 2ème REP is the elite unit of the French Foreign Legion (Photo: French Foreign Legion)

Basic requirements

Some of the basic requirements, in addition to those listed above and include the following three:

  • You must have a valid ID (identification documents) – Passport or National Identity card, and all other documents you might need
  • regardless of your marital status (single, married, divorced), will be logged as a single
  • You must be physically fit to serve at all times and in all places
  • Successive contracts are for six months (for minors under 18, parental consent is required on a form available in French Gendarmeries or Embassies outside France)
  • Subsequent agreements are for six months, up to 5 years

Selection

Selection is carried out in Aubagne near Marseille :

  • psycho-technical tests
  • medical tests
  • sports tests (Luc-leger “navette”)

If your candidature is upheld, the first contract is a minimum of 5 years. The course of the selection is available in the chart below.

PHASEInformationDuration

S

 

E

L

E

C

T

I

O

N

The French Foreign Legion Information CenterOne day
ReceptionInformation
Opening the files on the application
Preselection1-3 days
The Foreign Legion recruiting center (Paris Aubagne)
Confirmation of motivationBasic medical examinationFinalizing the paper application
The signing of the contract (5 years)
Selection1 to 10 days
The center for the recruitment and selection of the French Foreign Legion in Aubagne, Marseille
Psychometrical testing: logical tests, no special knowledge needed
Medical ExaminationSports TestsMotivational and security interviews
Personality test (related to psycho tests)
Selection
Signature and download the contract of service (5 years).Seven days
Incorporation

Basic training

PHASEBasic trainingDuration
F

 

O

R

M

A

T

I

O

N

Introductory training. Introduction to military life. Outdoor and field activities. Brotherhood. In the tradition of the Foreign Legion.Four weeks
March “Képi Blanc” and promotions.One week
Technical and practical training (field training)Three weeks
Mountaineering training (Chalet at Formiguière in the French Pyrenees)One week
Technical and practical training (field training)Two weeks
And obtaining elemental tests: technical certificate (CTE)One week
March, which marks the end of basic trainingOne week
School management light trucksOne week
Return to Aubagne before scheduling the regimentOne week
Reporting to one of the 11 regiments

Women in the French Foreign Legion

While the French Foreign Legion does not accept women into its ranks, one notable exception was Briton Susan Travers, who joined the Free French Forces during World War II and later became an honorary member of the Foreign Legion after serving in the Vietnam War. The Foreign Legion has also granted honorary membership to several individuals, including General Christian de Castries, Colonel Pierre Langlais, Geneviève de Galard (known as “The Angel of Dien Bien Phu”), Marcel Bigeard, and Norman Schwarzkopf Jr.

Female soldiers in conflict zones
Female soldiers in conflict zones (Photo: XY)

According to Neil Tweedie of The Telegraph, by 2008, many French Foreign Legion recruits were from middle-class backgrounds due to the improved conditions and increased professionalism within the organization. Tweedie reported that some non-commissioned officers in the Legion believed that the corps was becoming “a bit soft and girly.” Corporal Buys Francois, a South African legionnaire, claimed that the Legion was accepting recruits with university degrees and ex-husbands fleeing alimony and referred to these new entrants as “Generation PlayStation” due to their perceived softness.

Conclusion

If you have decided to join the French Foreign Legion, we wish you luck and a great experience. The life of a legionnaire will undoubtedly change your perspective and your life. The purpose of this article was to provide potential recruits with the information they need to make an informed decision.

Eric Sof

Eric Sof holds a master's degree in Political Science, specializing in International Peacekeeping Studies. He has over a decade of experience as a former member of an elite counterterrorism unit. Additionally, he is a firearms instructor and currently serves as a member of the SWAT unit.

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