Life after the French Foreign Legion

11 mins read
Legionnaire thinking about life after the French Foreign Legion

How is life after the French Foreign Legion? Or what happens when you finish your contract?

It’s a great thing if you have a plan in mind for your life after the French Foreign Legion. I like people who have goals and it’s important to forsee your future. When I joined the Legion, I barely knew anything useful about. It made me complicated to build a real project

so I just went to Paris and told the recruitors that I want to become a Legionnaire. I didn’t have any clear idea in my head and it’s not optimal. You need to have a plan for joining and it’s great if you see further than your nose.

So, in this article I’ll try to explain you the options you might have after 5, 8 or more years of service

Legionnaires leaving with 5 years of service

Those who don’t reenlist after the first 5 years don’t have too many options. Most of the Legionnaires who leave the French Foreign Legion start receiving the unemployment insurance. This is not very avantageous for former soldiers, because it’s based on the brut salary of the last 12 months. The most interesting is that the bonuses you got for your qualifications or family status don’t count. In my case it was a bit more than 1000 euros. Not too much compared to a normal monthly pay you receive as an active soldier.

Your military experience won’t worth much on the market

and if you don’t work on your French skills, it will be hard to find a better paying job, than you had in the Legion. The minimal salary in France – called SMIC – is 1 219 euros (net) a month for a 35 hours job. Unfortunately, that’s what you can count on if you don’t have any “special skills”.

The best story I heard about guys who left the FFL after 5 years and made a great career was about two Ukrainian brothers. During their years, they bought two flats and founded a small enterprise right after they left the Legion. In France it’s not too difficult to launch a business if you have a good idea and like to work. The job center (called pôle emploi) offers a lots of help for people who want to found an enterprise.

An example

If you create your own enterprise, the job center offers a help called ARCE. This is an amazing opportunity for those who has a business ready idea. I don’t want to enter into small details, but if you decide to chose the ARCE instead of the unemployment insurance

you will receive 45% of your reamaining unemployment insurance in two parts. In my case it would have been a bit more than 11,000 euros in 6 months.

Legionnaires coming out of Europe

and want to stay in France, have to apply for the “carte de séjour” which is like the green card in the USA. If I had to translate, I’d say “residence permit”. It allows Non-European people to stay legally in the country.

To apply for the French citizenship

5 years aren’t enough as you might heard from other sources. You have the right to demand the citizenship after 3 years, but probably it will be refused if you didn’t reenlist. The main reason is that the Legion wants to keep its qualified Legionnaires for at least 7-8 years.

You can also make the procedure via the civilian way, but the process takes around 2 years. Do note that you can’t send your demande until you didn’t leave the French Foreign Legion. 

Legionnaires leaving with 8 years and more

Staying for 8 years is a great compromise. Not too much, but enough to prepare a project in great conditions.

At the beginning, I didn’t need the French citizenship, because I came from a great European country and I can travel wherever I want with my passport. When I started my second contract, I decided to apply.
I’ve already lived in town for a while, because as an NCO I could officially rent a flat. I quickly discovered what it really means to live in France and started to love my new lifestyle. So I thought it’s better to show a French ID card than the military ID when I do something in my civilian life… And either way, two different passport are better than one – I said. So that’s how I became French, not by the blood received but by the blood shed. – as the Legion says.

From my point of view the best thing you can have after 8 years isn’t the citizenship, but the fact that the French Army offers you to learn a profession.

How it works to to learn a profession payed by the French Army?

Before you finish your service, you contact an office in the regiment and choose the profession you want to exercise as a civilian. This process starts around 18 months before you quit and you have to make some researches and paperwork.

Once you elaborated your project, you sign another contract until the end of your formation. However, you don’t have to work a minute in your regiment during the period you signed for your training. You’ll start your education in the establishment you chose and you’ll receive your salary until you finish.

The options for trainings are almost limitless. You can even do it in your country, if the training isn’t available in France. The only thing you should do is to write a detailed report.

With 8 years, you’ll have a document called “professional passport” which allows you to work in the security area as a guard for example. For this type of jobs, employer are looking for legionnaires because they are reliable. When I left the Legion I got three of this type of offers.

Legionnaires leaving after 20 years

You can go to retirement after 19,5 years of service, but this law is going to change in the near future. This is going to be valid for the whole French Army, not only for the French Foreign Legion.

The law was supposed to come out in 2020, but due to the Coronavirus disease, the government has other more important things to do… So we won’t know anything before 2021.

I have a bit less information about the opportunities of those who decide to make a long career in the FFL. They surely have the possibility to learn a profession and work after the Legion during their retirement and make a bit more money.

I know an adjutant who left with 22 years and receives the maximum pension he can in his rank. It’s around 1500 euros. That isn’t enough for a family in France, so he chose an “easy” job and works as a bus driver.

Resourceful people who transformed life after the French Foreign Legion into a succes

I know former Legionnaires who are working for the United Nations, but some chose to work for enterprises like G4S or organizations like the OSCE. I don’t have to say that they earn a bit more money, than they did in the FFL.
Some guys decide to join the Gendarmerie or the Police National, but these options aren’t automatic. You shouldn’t imagine, that you finish your contract and someone calls you from nowhere and asks you to work for this or this kind of company. All of them prepared their project well before leaving.

Possibilities are limitless. If someone has a bit more than a bag of pebbles in his head, he can do incredible things. Whatever happens; learn the language and you already won something!

A former member of the French Special Forces

I found the Instagram profile of a former member of the French Special Forces, who built a civilian career of his military experience. Now he’s working as a firearm and close combat instructor. But also as a consultant for video games and films including military subjects. Even if he’s never been a Legionnaire and the level of the Special Forces is highly above the best units of the French Foreign Legion, I’d like to share his profile. It’s very inspiring!
Click here to meet Alex, a former French SAS.

That’s all I had in mind for the first time. If you want to know more about daily life in the French Foreign Legion, here is where my story begins. If you have any questions, please leave a comment below.

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25 Comments

  1. Can we join french police? What’s the salary there. N how much pension we get after retirement if we go back 2 our home country. What is ur kind advice should we leave after 5, 8years or continue till retirement if we want 2 bring family in france? After leaving legion r their good salary jobs available in marine security n private military sector inside france?

    • Yes, you can join the French Police, but it’s the same like for the gendarmerie. You have a way more serious entry test than to join the Legion.
      I can’t say how much you’ll earn at the police, because it’s like in the army. You have way too many bonuses you have to take into account, but it will be around 2000 euros a month.
      If you want to bring your family in France and live an easy life, staying till the retirement could be an option, but it depends on your personal life.
      I can’t give a general advice concerning the years of service, because each case is different.
      For the well paying jobs, you shouldn’t imagine that you leave the FFL and employers will begging you to work for them for 8000 euros a week… I know some guys who are working for enterprises you mentioned, but all of them prepared their project during years and it’s not automatic.

  2. Thankyou respected Mr. Aron for your kind answer. I would like 2 ask few more, does every legionnare is allowed 2 bring his family in france & gets payments n housing for family. Does everyone gets citizenship or its a myth? What benefits family gets. And what is the deployment schedule in legion will i get time 2 stay with my family at leat 3 to 4 monts a year. After retirement if i went back 2 my home country will i still get pension? I heard legion allows leave of 45 days a year as u go up the rank your vacation is extended to 60 days a year after 5 years.

    • Hey,
      yes you can bring your family if you finished your first 5 years or passed NCO. Not evveryone gets the citizenship, but you can obtain it after 5 years. 3-4 months at the base is normal. It can be more or less. Yes, if you go back home, you’ll continue to get your pension. And finally no, you won’t have more the 45 days off a year.

  3. When out on a mission, do you feel you had adequate support such as artillery, air or back up troops if your unit got into an untenable position?

    • I’ve never been in an untenable position, but yes. From my point of view, all of the operations I participated in were well organized.

  4. Hie Aron thank you so much for all this understandable information you gave us. My Name is Bright a 27 years old man from Zimbabwe. I want to join the French Foreign Legions is there any way I can get a visa without the embassy requiring me to have about €3000 minimum amount in my account

    • Hi
      Let me answer you in that one,there is no way you can be granted a Shengen VISA unless you meet the requirements.
      The point is for then to try and minimise the number of immigrants

  5. I there any written test exam for recuirment .Exams like maths english written tedt
    If yes .Then plz ..Tell me the example of it.

  6. Good post.

    I left after 15 years (in 2000) and have since been employed as Security Manager, first in Africa and the last 15 years in the Middle East.

    The opportunities for ex legionnaires are numerous and there are excellent networks operating.

    • Thank you Charles for your comment. If you want to add to this article anything you find useful, don’t hesitate to contact me.

    • After 5 years can I get my French passport? What kind of job do you get after 5 years in the FFL, and how much will I earn on those jobs on average?

  7. Hey Aron, thanks for sharing your time at the legion with us, it is refreshing to read an up to date view of how life is in the legion, I was wondering if you can become an officer from with in the FFL, thanks again!
    Have a good day

    • Hey,
      Yes it’s possible, however you have to speak French at a high level and there are some other requirements but yes it’s possible.

  8. Would someone be able to save up for their Pilot Training during their time in the Legion?

    Pilot training would cost about 40,000 euros and I presume on the time off that you get from the Legion you would be able to do the training along side?

    Would love your opinion on this. Thank you for everything you do brother.

    • Hey. Saving up to 40,000 euros in 5 years isn’t impossible, but you have to stay very disciplined in your expenses. The best is if you stay for 8 years, because the army will pay you a training or participate in your pilote course up to 12,000 euros. You wouldn’t be the first who’ll do this

  9. Hey Aron, after the legion, assuming you obtained French citizenship, could you join one of the other branches of the French military? If so, what’s the cut off for age in those?
    Thanks

  10. Buen dia,cuando ingresas a la legión puedes hacer diferentes curso para especializarte,para aplicar a estos cursos es por merito o esta disponibles a todos los legionarios ? ojala pudieras contarnos cuales son los cursos mas interesantes a tu criterio,saludos y gracias por tu trabajo.

  11. tengo 17 años, estoy a nada de cumplir los 18, en mi país podría estudiar y enlistarme en las fuerzas armadas, con estudio te dan un buen rango al entrar y ganas bien….pero no tanto en comparación al tiempo que inviertes estudiando, por ejemplo, ahorrando en 3 años tendria dinero para una buena casa y después invertir en un negocio…..hablamos de un proceso que combinando estudio y trabajo llevaría cerca de 8 años¡¡¡ es decir básicamente a los 32 tendría algo “bueno y seguro” .

    siempre me ha gustado lo militar, mi padre estuvo en la armada y mi bisabuelo en la caballería, pero a como lo veo económicamente hay mayor opción de progreso en la legión extranjera, básicamente un año de salario ahí equivale a tres veces lo que ganaría aquí por el mismo tiempo de servicio y mucho de estudio, incluso ahorrando la mitad seria bastante conveniente, mis dudas son ¿Qué tan difícil es entrar? ¿necesito tramitar algo como una visa o una Green card especial para trabajar ahí? ¿Qué tan riesgoso es?¿te dan una pensión cuando termina tu servicio? personalmente no me gustaría vivir en Francia, yo amo mi país y el dinero vale mucho mas acá.

    saludos desde México.

    • Oye, gracias por tu mensaje. No hablo español en absoluto, por lo que es un poco difícil responder a sus preguntas. Si desea leer más sobre el dinero, tiene mucha información útil en el artículo sobre salario de este artículo.

      No es demasiado difícil unirse a la legión si eres lo suficientemente bueno físicamente. Por el momento, no puede venir a Francia debido al bloqueo, pero una vez que las fronteras estén abiertas de nuevo, puede intentar unirse.

    • Hey,
      I’ve heard that the Australian army enlists former soldiers having a rare specialty, but not the Canadian.

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