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Import and migrate groups and projects (FREE ALL)

To bring existing projects to GitLab, or copy GitLab groups and projects to a different location, you can:

  • Migrate GitLab groups and projects by using direct transfer.
  • Import from supported import sources.
  • Import from other import sources.

Migrate from GitLab to GitLab by using direct transfer

The best way to migrate GitLab groups and projects between GitLab instances, or in the same GitLab instance, is by using direct transfer.

You can also migrate GitLab projects by using a GitLab file export, which is a supported import source.

Supported import sources

All importers default to disabled for GitLab self-managed installations. This change was introduced in GitLab 16.0.

The import sources that are available to you by default depend on which GitLab you use:

  • all available import sources are enabled by default.
  • GitLab self-managed: no import sources are enabled by default and must be enabled.

GitLab can import projects from these supported import sources.

Import source Description
Bitbucket Cloud Using as an OmniAuth provider, import Bitbucket repositories.
Bitbucket Server Import repositories from Bitbucket Server (also known as Stash).
FogBugz Import FogBuz projects.
Gitea Import Gitea projects.
GitHub Import from either or GitHub Enterprise.
GitLab export Migrate projects one by one by using a GitLab export file.
Manifest file Upload a manifest file.
Repository by URL Provide a Git repository URL to create a new project from.

Other import sources

You can also read information on importing from these other import sources:

Import repositories from Subversion

GitLab can not automatically migrate Subversion repositories to Git. Converting Subversion repositories to Git can be difficult, but several tools exist including:

  • git svn, for very small and basic repositories.
  • reposurgeon, for larger and more complex repositories.


Only import projects from sources you trust. If you import a project from an untrusted source, an attacker could steal your sensitive data. For example, an imported project with a malicious .gitlab-ci.yml file could allow an attacker to exfiltrate group CI/CD variables.

GitLab self-managed administrators can reduce their attack surface by disabling import sources they don't need:

  1. On the left sidebar, at the bottom, select Admin Area.
  2. Select Settings > General.
  3. Expand Visibility and access controls.
  4. Scroll to Import sources.
  5. Clear checkboxes for importers that are not required.

In GitLab 16.1 and earlier, you should not use direct transfer with scheduled scan execution policies.

Migrate using the API

To migrate all data from self-managed to, you can leverage the API. Migrate the assets in this order:

  1. Groups
  2. Projects
  3. Project variables

You must still migrate your Container Registry over a series of Docker pulls and pushes. Re-run any CI pipelines to retrieve any build artifacts.

Migrate between two self-managed GitLab instances

To migrate from an existing self-managed GitLab instance to a new self-managed GitLab instance, you should back up the existing instance and restore it on the new instance. For example, you could use this method to migrate a self-managed instance from an old server to a new server.

The backups produced don't depend on the operating system running GitLab. You can therefore use the restore method to switch between different operating system distributions or versions, as long as the same GitLab version is available for installation.

Administrators can use the Users API to migrate users.

View project import history

You can view all project imports created by you. This list includes the following:

  • Paths of source projects if projects were imported from external systems, or import method if GitLab projects were migrated.
  • Paths of destination projects.
  • Start date of each import.
  • Status of each import.
  • Error details if any errors occurred.

To view project import history:

  1. Sign in to GitLab.
  2. On the left sidebar, at the top, select Create new ({plus}) and New project/repository.
  3. Select Import project.
  4. In the upper-right corner, select History.
  5. If there are any errors for a particular import, you can see them by selecting Details.

The history also includes projects created from built-in or custom templates. GitLab uses import repository by URL to create a new project from a template.

LFS authentication

When importing a project that contains LFS objects, if the project has an .lfsconfig file with a URL host (lfs.url) different from the repository URL host, LFS files are not downloaded.

Project aliases (PREMIUM SELF)

Introduced in GitLab 12.1.

GitLab repositories are usually accessed with a namespace and a project name. When migrating frequently accessed repositories to GitLab, however, you can use project aliases to access those repositories with the original name. Accessing repositories through a project alias reduces the risk associated with migrating such repositories.

This feature is only available on Git over SSH. Also, only GitLab administrators can create project aliases, and they can only do so through the API. For more information, see the Project Aliases API documentation.

After an administrator creates an alias for a project, you can use the alias to clone the repository. For example, if an administrator creates the alias gitlab for the project, you can clone the project with git clone instead of git clone

Automate group and project import (PREMIUM ALL)

The GitLab Professional Services team uses Congregate to orchestrate user, group, and project import API calls. With Congregate, you can migrate data to GitLab from:

  • Other GitLab instances
  • GitHub Enterprise
  • Bitbucket Server
  • Bitbucket Data Center

For more information, see:

For support, customers must enter into a paid engagement with GitLab Professional Services.


Imported repository is missing branches

If an imported repository does not contain all branches of the source repository:

  1. Set the environment variable IMPORT_DEBUG=true.
  2. Retry the import with a different group, subgroup, or project name.
  3. If some branches are still missing, inspect importer.log (for example, with jq).