How can I join the military?

Who can serve in the armies of this world?

The announcement that EU citizens would be admitted to the German Armed Forces raised concerns above all about the condition of the German army and the situation on the skilled labor market - not necessarily wrongly. As if the General Inspector of the Bundeswehr, Eberhard Zorn, wanted to dispel these concerns, he immediately explained that the considerations were only about doctors and IT specialists - and not about active soldiers.

No foreigners in the active force, says Inspector General Zorn.

As the highest-ranking soldier in the Bundeswehr, Zorn knows that these ideas are not new either. In her White Paper on the German Armed Forces, Federal Defense Minister Ursula von der Leyen already recorded the idea in 2017 that the pool from which new soldiers are recruited could be enlarged.

In other countries it is already common practice that foreigners also serve in the army. Here are some examples:

The EU

Some smaller EU states are recruiting their soldiers from the continent. EU citizens between the ages of 18 and 34 have been allowed into the armed forces of Belgium enter. Even the army in Denmark accepts foreign recruits if they already live in Denmark and speak the language. Luxembourg also allows EU citizens access to his army if they have lived in the country for three years and are between 18 and 24 years old.

In Ireland Citizens from the European Economic Area - i.e. EU plus Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway - can become part of the armed forces. Other foreign applicants will also be accepted if they have lived in Ireland for three years.

Great Britain

The kingdom has traditionally also recruited its soldiers from the earlier colonies of the Empire. Since the first half of the 20th century, the army has developed into an organization made up of 53 nations that belong to the Commonwealth. Around 2.3 billion people currently belong to this group, including Australia, India, Canada, Kenya and the Fiji Islands.

In view of the staff shortage - similar to Germany - the British military recently relaxed its rules for recruiting. The Department of Defense announced in November that Commonwealth citizens no longer have to live in the UK for five years before they can join the army. However, other nationalities are not taken into account: EU citizens are not allowed to apply.


The French Foreign Legion is unique in that it is the oldest active army made up entirely of foreigners. It was founded in 1831. Their soldiers are still led by French officers. The legionaries can apply for French citizenship after three years.

Soldier of the Foreign Legion - she has been open to foreign recruits since 1831


Spain has been recruiting citizens from its ex-colonies since 2002, a measure that critics call imperialist. However, Madrid explicitly excluded Morocco, even though the northern part of the country was a Spanish colony. Initially the quota of foreign army members was capped at 2 percent, later the number was increased to 9 percent.


Russia relaxed its rules for recruiting foreign soldiers in 2010. This was seen as an attempt to lure ethnic Russians back to Russia from the former Soviet states. Moscow has also made the army a fast lane on the road to citizenship: non-Russians who speak Russian can sign a five-year contract with the military and then apply for citizenship after three years.

United States

The US allows permanent residents and green card holders to join the army, but they cannot advance to higher ranks. Again, the service becomes an expressway to US citizenship. In 2002, President George W. Bush ordered a decree that expedites the process for non-American soldiers to obtain citizenship. Around 8,000 foreigners now join the US Army each year, most of them from Mexico and the Philippines. There are special regulations for citizens of Micronesia and Palau.