A step by step guide about how to join the French Foreign Legion
Looking to join the French Foreign Legion? It’s a great way to challenge yourself physically and mentally, while serving in an elite fighting force. However, when I joined, I found the recruitment process confusing. That’s why I’ve created a step-by-step guide to help you succeed. Here are the 8 steps, that will help you through the process and offer some good tips:
- Make sure you meet the requirements to join the French Foreign Legion
- Choose a recruitment center
- Prepare your documents and equipment to join the French Foreign Legion
- Go to a recruitment center during open hours to apply
- Pass the “Welcome to the French Foreign Legion” pull-up test
- Know your medical history
- Successfully complete the main selection tests in Aubagne
- Finally, join the French Foreign Legion as a Legionnaire and be proud!
It’s important to note that joining the French Foreign Legion does not require any formal education. You don’t need any specific qualifications to become a Legionnaire – your future in the Legion will depend solely on the results of your tests. This guide will focus on the step-by-step joining procedure to help you achieve your dream of becoming a Legionnaire.
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1. Make sure you meet the requirements to join the French Foreign Legion
The age limit in the French Foreign Legion is between 17.5 and 39.5 years.
- Under 18 years, you have to present a parental authorization in French, so I advise you to wait 6 months and join on your birthday if you don’t want to loose your time.
- Older people have to take into account, that the age limit is 39.5. It means, that the day when you sign your contract, you must be younger than 39 years and 6 months. It doesn’t mean, that you still can knock on the door when you reached the age limit.
My advices if you want to join the French Foreign Legion
- Don’t go to France if you can’t do 4 pull-ups. If you want to be sure, try to go up to ten, but don’t buy your plane ticket if you aren’t ready.
- Check your result on the Luc Leger beep test! This isn’t something evident. A few weeks of training could make the difference, so don’t forget this part from your preparation!
- Use the Legion Training App for your training ! We built an app containing exercises for the IQ test and contains the original Luc Leger soundtrack used in Aubagne
- Have your teeth checked before you go to France! With a tooth decay, you’ll have to return to your country with the first plane!
- If you want to join the mountain troops or the paratroopers, your body mass index shouldn’t be too high! If you arent particularly muscular, my advice is that you should try to go under 25.
Click here for a calculator!
2. Choose a recruitment center
The first step is to decide in which recruiting center you want to go. If you are coming from the other side of the globe, the best idea is to fly to Paris and go to Fort de Nogent. I’d give the same advice for everyone who has to take a plane to reach France.
An example: if you pass the first tests in Paris, you’ll go down to Aubagne to continue the selection. The sport tests are okay, but if you fail the IQ test, you’ll have to leave. In this case, the FFL will give you a train ticket back to Paris for free and you can catch a plane from the capital. Yes, it’s not too positive to talk about failure, but I advise you to have a secondary plan.
Other recruitment points:
3. Prepare your documents and equipment to join the French Foreign Legion
You’ll need the following documents:
- A plane ticket
- Visa – People from the Schengen area don’t need a visa, but citizens of countries may need this document. For more information check the webpage of your country’s embassy!
- Passport, ID card (for EU citizens), driving license (if you have one, it could be useful)
- A birth certificate – In some countries you can obtain this document including a French translation. If it’s your case, take one. If not, once you enlisted, you’ll have to ask for one example and have it translated.
You’ll need the following things:
- 2-3 t-shirts
- 7 pair of socks and underwear (these will be useful during basic training)
- A good pair of running shoes (!)
- Cash (50 euros and some coins for the café machine in Paris)
- Towel and slippers
- Shower gel
- Toilet paper (you should find in the toilets, but not always)
- A good razor, some new blades and shaving gel
- Toothbrush and toothpaste
- Soap and a small brush, because you’ll have to wash your clothes by hand at the beginning
- A French dictionary, because the one you can buy in Castelnaudary is too big
- A small book, because you’ll have a lot of free time at the beginning
- A set of clothes you’ll use approximately 5 months later during your first weekend. If you go to France in July, it’s not a bad idea to take a pullover and a pair of jeans
Some useful advices:
- Write your parents’, siblings’ and friends’ phone number in a small notebook. So you won’t be like an idiot when you’ll have the possibility to call back home
- Don’t take your laptop or tablet to the recruitment center. It’s better if you leave it at home and ask someone to send to your regiment once you finished the basic training
- Don’t take any “tactical equipment” like a knife, military backpack, uniform or whatever you have in your head. Even if it’s an awesome Leatherman Military Utility Tool you took because you wanted to seem motivated and “ops”, they’ll take it away
- When you are going to be in a recruitment center, you’ll have plenty of weird thoughts and you’ll feel your motivation evaporated. Don’t stop your training and preparation. Do some push-ups or pull-ups when you’ll have the possibility and don’t be afraid if someone does twice more than you. Physical fitness isn’t everything
Let your dream devour your life, not your life devour your dream.Antoine de Saint-Exupery
4. Go to a recruitment center during open hours to apply
If you chose to go to Paris. Step 2 is to find the way to Fort de Nogent from the Charles de Gaulle airport. Here is a way to reach the fortress:
- Take your bag and follow the exit signs
- Follow the RER B inscription (blue line)
- Buy a ticket at the station. I didn’t have my credit card so I asked a French guy to buy my ticket and I paid back him in cash. Price 10.30€
- Take the RER B and take off at “Chatelet-les-Halles”, the journey will take around 25-30 minutes
- Switch to RER A (red line) in the direction of “Boissy-Saint-Léger”, but you took off at Val-de-Fontenay. Good news, the you only have 2km left to reach the fortress.
- Look for “Avenue du Val de Fontenay” when you quit the station. You’ll see a big roundabout and continue straight ahead until you arrive on Boulevard Gallieni. Walk a few hundred meters and turn left onto “Impasse de la Croix Pommier” and you’ll see the fortress.
This is how I arrived to Fort de Nogent (and got lost as you can see in the first chapter). It’s much better if you previously downloaded the journey via Wi-Fi at home and just follow its instructions until you arrive at the base.
Make sure the doors of the French Foreign Legion are open
The French Foreign Legion keeps open its doors throughout the year, but I recommend you to arrive during weekdays, from 8 AM to 18 PM.
These are our normal working hours, so try to respect them. It’s also better for you, because you won’t have to wait too long before they leave you enter the base. Once you are in, they’ll check your bag and take your passport.
This is when the recruitment process starts.
5. Pass the Welcome to the French Foreign Legion pull-up test!
You’ll be asked to do as many pull-ups as you can. (I wrote about it more here: The welcome to the French Foreign Legion push-ups.) The minimum is 4 in the French Army, but 4 isn’t always enough to join the French Foreign Legion. Be prepared and try to go up to 10 at least.
6. Know your medical history
You’ll wait and wait during long hours (time to pull out the book I advised you to put in your bag). The only things to do will be some little jobs around the building and you’ll also have to fill out several papers, including the personality test.
Before heading to Aubagne, a doctor will examine you and make the first medical tests. Don’t be surprised when he’ll check your balls. Note that the medical tests include a urinalysis.
Don’t take drugs and if you took before, don’t mention when they ask you. You shouldn’t drink protein shakes day and night before joining the French Foreign Legion.
This test could show a protein excess in your urine and this condition is often a sign of kidney disease. So, you’ll have to see a doctor in Paris and be examined. This would make you lose money and time.
7. Successfully complete the main selection tests in Aubagne
To pass the tests which will determinate your future, you will go down to Aubagne by TGV (high-speed train). It takes place on each Tuesday and Thursday. A bus will take the candidates to the Headquarter of the French Foreign Legion in Aubagne from the railway station in Marseille. They’ll bring you directly to the recruitment center as you’ve already passed the “preselection” phase.
You will pass the following tests:
- The medical tests: it will involve a global check, a urine screen (to measure the drug, blood, protein level), audiometry (hearing test), an eye exam, a dental check and an ECG.
- The sport tests: these tests have changed in 2020. Nowadays, you will have to pass the Luc Leger test, do as many clear, military pull-ups as you can and a 2400 meters running tests as fast as possible. In a normal case, you will also have to do a 25 meters long swimming test.
- The IQ test: the IQ test doesn’t require any specific knowledge, but a bit practice could speed up your decision making time.
- The interviews: during these discussions, you have to convince your interviewer why you would like to join the French Foreign Legion.
8. Finally, join the French Foreign Legion as a Legionnaire and be proud!
On commission day, you’ll stand in formation outside the recruitment center. An officer will call out the names of the successful candidates, and if your name is among them, congratulations – you have officially joined the French Foreign Legion!
For more about daily life in the French Foreign Legion, you should start to read my stories from the beginning. You’ll also find some interesting posts on the blog about the salary or the history of the Legion.