Life after the French Foreign Legion – Opportunities and Challenges

12 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?

Having a plan for your life after the French Foreign Legion is crucial. It’s important to have goals and to anticipate your future. When I joined the Legion, I knew very little, which made it challenging to build a solid plan for my future.

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

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Leaving the French Foreign Legion after 5 years of service

For those who choose not to reenlist after the first five years, options can seem limited. Many Legionnaires who leave the French Foreign Legion begin by receiving 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”.

One of the most inspiring stories I’ve heard is about two Ukrainian brothers who left the FFL after five years and went on to have successful careers. During their service, they managed to buy two apartments and started a small business immediately after leaving 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.

Legionnaires in Aubagne

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. 

Leaving the French Foreign Legion after 8 years of service or 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 of service

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 of an adjutant who retired after 22 years of service and now receives the maximum pension for his rank, which is around 1500 euros. However, this isn’t sufficient to support a family in France, so he opted for a less demanding job and now 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 the insights I have to share for now about life after the French Foreign Legion. If you’re interested in delving deeper into my personal experiences and the journey post-service, please follow this link. Should you have any questions or need further clarification, don’t hesitate to leave a comment below. I’m here to help!

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  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

    • Do i have to complete 5 years to bring my family in France? Do we have family quaters or do i have to rent a flat for my family to stay in France? Does FFL pay for the rent of the Flat Or do i have to pay from my salary?
      And at last is FFL salary enough to pay for the family of 2 ?

  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.

    • Hi Aayush,
      During your recruitment, you will give two IQ tests. Here is how it goes:

      1) basic 10 question which is related to mathematics and simple logical questions. They will tell you that you need to get 7 or 8 correct (which everyone does).

      2) the second test is where most of the recruits fail. To make it simple, its divided in three section.
      i) puzzle solving ( more of what will happen if you do this/that type of question)
      ii) mathematics ( geometric progression and sequence type of question)
      iii) eagle view ( what will be your view from a certain angle and what will you see)

      Total time allocation for second test is one hour if i remember correctly.

      Best of luck 😀

  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?

  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.

  12. Hi. I have read that the Canadian Army enlist former-FFL members.
    Is that true and under what conditions?

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

  13. Hey, Aron. Can you please tell me about the medical tests done in the FFL recruitment process? Do they conduct an X-ray test? I’m pretty sure they will conduct an ECG test though. However, my ECG test was abit not good but when I did an echo test, they said my heart is in good shape. Do they also do an echo test if our ECG test results isn’t good?

  14. Hello Aron,
    If in case i got recruited in the legions, i can summon my wife & kid to France only after 5 years of service!! Is that the truth?
    Next, what would be the pay scale for non Europeans if there is a difference for diff origins?

    • There’s no different in the pay if you’re coming from another country… And yes, you can move to town with your wife

  15. Hi Aron, good post.

    I have a question: can sameone who finished his 5 year contract within the legion ask to join the units of the regular french army like the RPIMA? Is there any age limit? Does the previous rank automatically translate? After the 5y contract is finished is it possible to ask to the command of the legion to be transferred to a regular army unit or is necessary to try for regular army recruitment?


    • Hey, I’ll write an article about this topic, because it needs a lot longer development than the poor one I could give you via a comment.

  16. How much pension amount we get after we serve french foreign legion
    do we get monthly pension or not?
    if yes how much?

    • Good morning, my brother was in the FFL I think for 17 years his name was Eduard Marinas De Ridder.
      My brother Eddie passed in 2001 in Australia.
      Eddie was born in Holland on the 15- 02 – 1948.
      Eddie moved from Holland to Australia in 1956
      Would you have any information on my brother.
      Thank you in advance.

  17. Hii can I join french special force after serving in French foreign legion for five year
    I heard that we can join french special force after obtaining french citizenship
    Plzz give me information about this

    • Yes, it could be an option if you manage to get the French citizenship before you reach the age limit of the unit you’d like to join.

  18. Is French legion army danger and they have to fight all the time ? Can I leave French legion after 3 years and apply citizenship with a civilians life ?

  19. 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?

  20. Hi and thank you for your post. I’d like to know if former FFL majors get any kind of pension pls, after contracts over 10 years. Thank you.

    • Hey,

      No. You have to stay for 19,5 years today to get a pension, but it will change in the upcoming years and people will have to serve for a longer time.

  21. Hello Aron!
    If I wear glasses will that affect me in the legion?
    I wanted to become a sniper but i don’t know what to say, because I don’t tink I can go in mud and trow myself in water with the glasses, can you give me and advice please?

  22. Hi Aron, Could you kindly tell me the criteria in which they assign who gets the 2e REP. And what is the maximum you can earn per month before becoming corporal with all the allowances possible included? And how much can you save per month.

  23. Hi Aron, thank you for being so helpful and taking the time to answer the many questions that people have for you. I have a question of my own that I’ve had no luck in finding an answer to. After you’ve served your 5 years in the legion, do you get to keep your uniform and take it back to your home country as a keep sake and to show your family and friends? Again, thanks so much for all of your information!

  24. This article is a rare gem in the world of online media. The author’s writing is both substantive and engaging, and their commitment to presenting factual and balanced perspectives is truly commendable. What I appreciate most about this article is its ability to take complex issues and present them in a way that is accessible and engaging for readers of all levels, making it a valuable resource for anyone looking to stay informed on important social and political issues.

  25. Taylor, I am an ex Legionnaire, served between 1980 -1990. An ex legion friend of mine, now living in Texas, completed his pilots licence after leaving the legion, but could not get a job with it.
    so like many of us went into the private security industry, which is where I met him, he served after I left the 2e REP.

    • Hi Richard,

      Hope you are doing well !

      Can you please tell me more about this how is the life there Because you have real life experience in it..

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