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.
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.