What Happens If You Join The French Foreign Legion?

by | Dec 12, 2022 | New Identity, new life

Joining the French Foreign Legion: What You Need to Know

The Challenge of Becoming a Legionnaire


Joining the French Foreign Legion is challenging. To become a legionnaire, you must pass stringent physical and mental tests. Afterward, you must pledge allegiance to the Legion and give up your original identity for a new one created by the Legion.

Serving Without Recognition or Reward

It would be best if you also served without recognition or reward. The Legion is known for its anonymity, making it ideal for those seeking a fresh start.

Adopting a New Identity

Once enlisted, all candidates adopt new names, including minor criminals with past law enforcement encounters. However, serious infractions disqualify you from joining this prestigious institution.

FAQs About Joining the French Foreign Legion

What Happens If You Join the French Foreign Legion?

When you join the Legion, you receive a new identity and name. This new identity marks the beginning of your transformation. After one year of service, you can request to reclaim your real identity. This rule applies to all candidates without distinction, offering everyone a fresh start and a chance to integrate fully into the Legion’s way of life.

Initial Training and Conditioning

During your initial training, you will undergo intensive physical and mental conditioning. The Legion’s training regimen is one of the toughest in the world, designed to push you to your limits and beyond. You will learn to operate as part of a highly disciplined and cohesive unit, mastering various skills ranging from combat techniques to survival strategies.

Immersion in Legion Culture

You will also be immersed in the Legion’s unique culture and traditions. This includes learning French, the official language of the Legion, and adopting the Legion’s code of conduct. The training period is designed to break down your old identity and build you anew, instilling a sense of loyalty and camaraderie among the legionnaires.

Global Missions and Deployment

As a legionnaire, you will be deployed to various missions worldwide. The French Foreign Legion is known for its rapid response capabilities, often being the first to arrive in crises. You may be in diverse environments, from deserts and jungles to urban areas and conflict zones. Each mission will test your skills and resilience, reinforcing the bond with your fellow legionnaires.

Emphasis on Anonymity and Brotherhood

The Legion places a strong emphasis on anonymity and brotherhood. Your new identity is part of this ethos, allowing you to leave your past behind and fully embrace the Legion’s values. This anonymity provides a unique form of protection and solidarity, where each legionnaire is judged solely on their performance and commitment.

Additional FAQs

Do I Have to Change My Name?

Yes, every recruit must change their name.

Does the French Foreign Legion Allow Criminals?

Minor criminals are welcome and often preferred. They are thought to be more willing to abandon their old lives and fully integrate into Legion life. However, serious criminals are not accepted.

Background Checks and Assumed Names

The Legion lets you join under an assumed name, but you must first reveal your true identity. French police and intelligence services will conduct a background check.

Minor Crimes vs. Serious Crimes

If you are wanted for something minor, like running away from debts, they might overlook it. You could begin a new life and acquire French citizenship after service. However, if you are wanted for murder, expect to be arrested and extradited.

Contract Length in the Foreign Legion

The initial contract is for five years. Afterward, you can continue with a six-month to five-year contract.

Getting a New Identity in the French Foreign Legion

Receiving Your New Identity

Most recruits get a new identity during their first week of basic training in the 4th Foreign Regiment (Regiment Etranger) in Castelnaudary, southern France. You don’t get asked if you want a new name or birthday. They give it to you on paper and say, “From now on, you are [new name and surname].” Your new name resembles your real name; for example, Wolfgang becomes Walter, or Giovanni becomes Giuseppe. The same goes for your last name.

Memorizing Your New Identity

This helps you quickly memorize your new identity. They also change your birthday by a month.

Initial Confusion

Initially, recruits struggle with their new names. Instructors call recruits by their new names, but often, they don’t get a reply. It takes time to familiarize yourself with your new identity and respond when called.

The Tradition of ‘Anonymat’

The tradition of giving new identities, known as “anonymat” (anonymity), is old in the Foreign Legion. It made sense in the past when many legionnaires had criminal records.

Modern Screening Process

Today, every candidate goes through a screening process at the “Gestapo” or “Bureau Statistique de la Legion Etrang” (BSLE). The BSLE separates liars from truth-tellers. You can join with a criminal background if you have served your sentence but wanted criminals are no longer accepted.

Adapting to Legion Life

“Anonymat” still helps new legionnaires forget their past, integrate into their new unit, and adapt to the Legion’s rules and mentality.

Citizenship and Legal Documents

Losing Your Original Citizenship

After three years of service, a foreign legionnaire can apply for French nationality. If you do a good job, you will first get a permit to live in France and then citizenship.

Documents Needed for Recruitment

You need all valid identity documents from your country of origin (identity card, passport, driving license, diplomas, etc.). Before the contract’s first-year ends, a birth certificate or an extract with filiation is required.

Case Studies of Fugitives Who Joined the Legion

Case Study: Peter L.*

Peter L., a British national, was wanted for fraud in the UK. Facing years in prison, he fled to France and joined the Legion. Under the new name “Pierre Lambert,” he served five years and fully integrated into Legion life. After his service, he applied for French citizenship and started a new life in France, far from his past crimes.

Case Study: Carlos M.*

Carlos M., a minor criminal from Spain, was running from debt collectors and minor theft charges. He joined the Legion and became “Charles Martin.” The Legion gave him a new identity, and he found the structure and discipline he needed to turn his life around. After completing his contract, he decided to extend his service and became a respected member of the Legion.

Case Study: Jan K.*

Jan K., a Czech national, had a history of petty crimes and a troubled past. Seeking a fresh start, he joined the Legion under the name Jean Keller. The Legion’s anonymity and rigorous training helped him leave his past behind. He served for ten years, during which time he earned several commendations for his service. Jan eventually settled in France, using his new identity to build a stable, lawful life.

*Note: Names have been changed to protect the individuals’ identities.

These case studies highlight how the French Foreign Legion offers a unique opportunity for those seeking to escape their past and start anew. The Legion’s emphasis on anonymity and brotherhood creates a supportive environment where individuals can transform their lives and serve with honour.

If you would like to work with a professional team that can help make your transition to a life of freedom, contact Amicus Int. for New Identity services today.