Living in France For Members

What is France's 'citizen service' and who has to do it?

Emma Pearson
Emma Pearson - [email protected]
What is France's 'citizen service' and who has to do it?
Youngsters in Marseille taking part in their Journée Défense Citoyonneté (JDC). Photo by BERTRAND LANGLOIS / AFP

Although France no longer has compulsory military service, there is still a requirement for a 'citizen service' known as the JDC - and for most younger people this is compulsory, including young foreigners who take French citizenship.


France scrapped compulsory military service in 1997 so its teenagers are no longer required to do 10 months of square-bashing, boot polishing and cross country runs.

They are, however, required to do the Journée défense et citoyenneté (JDC) in most cases - although this at least has the benefit of being just a single day.

What is it? 

The JDC is basically a one-day course or learning exercise about your rights and responsibilities as a citizen of France.


You will receive teaching on three main areas;

  • The general issues and objectives of national defence, and on the different forms of commitment required from citizens. This part of the course is usually taught by members of the French military
  • Civics lessons - similar to those given in French schools - based on the Charte des droits et devoirs du citoyen français (Charter of rights and duties of French citizens)
  • Information on equality between men and women, on the fight against sexist prejudice and on the fight against physical, psychological or sexual violence committed within the couple

You will also be given a brief test on your knowledge of the French language. This is for everyone, not just foreigners, and language learners can feel comforted by the fact that plenty of native French people also struggle with the intricacies of their language.

You do not have to pass any kind of exam on the contents of the citizenship course - more on the curriculum here.

The course usually lasts seven and a half hours - basically a standard working day.

Who has to do it?

There are two things that young people in France must do - the recensement citoyen (citizen census) and then, in most cases, the JDC.

The recensement citoyen is compulsory for;

  • Any French citizens who are turning 16 - they must complete the registration within three months of their 16th birthday.
  • Anyone who gains French nationality between the ages of 16 and 25 - they must sign up within a month of getting their citizenship.

It is not required for people older than 25 who gain French citizenship, neither is it required for non-French citizens - even if they are long-term residents in France.


People who fail to complete the recensement citoyen when required cannot be inscribed onto the electoral rolls (and therefore cannot vote), while the certificate of completion is also usually required to enrol for French public exams or administrative exams (eg professional qualifications).

Once you have completed the census, you will then receive notice for the one-day citizenship course (JDC). This is compulsory for most people, although there are exceptions for people who have a disability or a long-term illness.

How do you do it?

First off, the recensement citoyen can be done either online or in person, if you choose the online option it is done at the local mairie.

It's a relatively simple sign-up process and then you receive the attestation de recensement, which will be required for registering for exams. Once you have completed this, you will automatically be added to the electoral roll once you reach the age of 18.


Once this is completed, you will then receive a convocation (summons) to your one-day JDC. The letter will provide details of how and where to do the course, as well as the options to appeal if you believe you are exempt on the grounds of illness or disability.

It also gives you an autorisation d'absence exceptionnelle - authorisation of absence, which you present to your employer if you are working or an apprentice. They are then legally obliged to give you the day off to attend.



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