Migrating projects using file exports (FREE)

Existing projects on any self-managed GitLab instance or GitLab.com can be exported to a file and then imported into another GitLab instance. You can also copy GitLab projects to another location with more automation by migrating groups by direct transfer.

Preserving user contributions

Preserving user contribution depends on meeting the following requirements:

Migrating from GitLab self-managed to GitLab.com

When migrating projects by using file exports, an administrator's access token is required for user contributions to map correctly.

Therefore, user contributions never map correctly when importing file exports from a self-managed instance to GitLab.com. Instead, all GitLab user associations (such as comment author) are changed to the user importing the project. To preserve contribution history, do one of the following:

Migrating to GitLab self-managed

To ensure GitLab maps users and their contributions correctly:

  • The owner of the project's top-level group should export the project so that the information of all members (direct and inherited) with access to the project can be included in the exported file. Project maintainers and owners can initiate the project export. However, only direct members of a project are then exported.
  • An administrator must perform the import with an administrator access token.
  • Required users must exist on the destination GitLab instance. An administrator can create confirmed users either in bulk in a Rails console or one by one in the UI.
  • Users must set a public email in their profiles on the source GitLab instance that matches their primary email address on the destination GitLab instance. You can also manually add users' public emails by editing project export files.

When the email of an existing user matches the email of an imported user, that user is added as a direct member to the imported project.

If any of the previous conditions are not met, user contributions are not mapped correctly. Instead, all GitLab user associations are changed to the user who performed the import. That user becomes an author of merge requests created by other users. Supplementary comments mentioning original authors are:

  • Added for comments, merge request approvals, linked tasks, and items.
  • Not added for the merge request or issue creator, added or removed labels, and merged-by information.

Edit project export files

You can add or remove data from export files. For example, you can:

  • Manually add users public emails to the project_members.ndjson file.
  • Trim CI pipelines by removing lines from the ci_pipelines.ndjson file.

To edit a project export file:

  1. Extract the exported .tar.gz file.
  2. Edit the appropriate file . For example, tree/project/project_members.ndjson.
  3. Compress the files back to a .tar.gz file.

You can also make sure that all members were exported by checking the project_members.ndjson file.


Support for JSON-formatted project file exports removed in GitLab 15.11.

Project file exports are in NDJSON format.

You can import project file exports that were exported from a version of GitLab up to two minor versions behind, which is similar to our process for security releases.

For example:

Destination version Compatible source versions
13.0 13.0, 12.10, 12.9
13.1 13.1, 13.0, 12.10

Configure file exports as an import source (FREE SELF)

Before you can migrate projects on a self-managed GitLab instance using file exports, GitLab administrators must:

  1. Enable file exports on the source instance.
  2. Enable file exports as an import source for the destination instance. On GitLab.com, file exports are already enabled as an import source.

To enable file exports as an import source for the destination instance:

  1. On the top bar, select Main menu > Admin.
  2. On the left sidebar, select Settings > General.
  3. Expand Visibility and access controls.
  4. Scroll to Import sources.
  5. Select the GitLab export checkbox.

Between CE and EE

You can export projects from the Community Edition to the Enterprise Edition and vice versa, assuming compatibility is met.

If you're exporting a project from the Enterprise Edition to the Community Edition, you may lose data that is retained only in the Enterprise Edition. For more information, see downgrading from EE to CE.

Export a project and its data

Before you can import a project, you must export it.


  • Review the list of items that are exported. Not all items are exported.
  • You must have at least the Maintainer role for the project.

To export a project and its data, follow these steps:

  1. On the top bar, select Main menu > Projects and find your project.
  2. On the left sidebar, select Settings > General.
  3. Expand Advanced.
  4. Select Export project.
  5. After the export is generated, you should receive an email with a link to download the file.
  6. Alternatively, you can come back to the project settings and download the file from there or generate a new export. After the file is available, the page should show the Download export button.

The export is generated in your configured shared_path, a temporary shared directory, and then moved to your configured uploads_directory. Every 24 hours, a worker deletes these export files.

Items that are exported

Exported project items depend on the version of GitLab you use. To determine if a specific project item is exported:

  1. Check the exporters array.
  2. Check the project/import_export.yml file for projects for your GitLab version (for example, <https://gitlab.com/gitlab-org/gitlab/-/blob/15-9-stable-ee/lib/gitlab/import_export/project/import_export.yml> for GitLab 15.9).

For a quick overview, items that are exported include:

  • Project and wiki repositories
  • Project uploads
  • Project configuration, excluding integrations
  • Issues
    • Issue comments
    • Issue iterations (introduced in GitLab 15.4)
    • Issue resource state events (introduced in GitLab 15.4)
    • Issue resource milestone events (introduced in GitLab 15.4)
    • Issue resource iteration events (introduced in GitLab 15.4)
  • Merge requests
    • Merge request diffs
    • Merge request comments
    • Merge request resource state events (introduced in GitLab 15.4)
    • Merge request multiple assignees (introduced in GitLab 15.3)
    • Merge request reviewers (introduced in GitLab 15.3)
    • Merge request approvers (introduced in GitLab 15.3)
  • Commit comments (introduced in GitLab 15.10)
  • Labels
  • Milestones
  • Snippets
  • Time tracking and other project entities
  • Design management files and data
  • LFS objects
  • Issue boards
  • Pipelines history
  • Push rules
  • Awards
  • Group members as long as the user has the Maintainer role in the exported project's group or is an administrator

Items that are not exported

Items that are not exported include:

Migrating projects with file exports uses the same export and import mechanisms as creating projects from templates at the group and instance levels. Therefore, the list of exported items is the same.

Import a project and its data

Default maximum import file size changed from 50 MB to unlimited in GitLab 13.8. Administrators of self-managed instances can set maximum import file size. On GitLab.com, the value is set to 5 GB.

WARNING: Only import projects from sources you trust. If you import a project from an untrusted source, it may be possible for an attacker to steal your sensitive data.


  • You must have exported the project and its data.
  • Compare GitLab versions and ensure you are importing to a GitLab version that is the same or later than the GitLab version you exported to.
  • Review compatibility for any issues.
  • At least the Maintainer role on the destination group to migrate to. Using the Developer role for this purpose was deprecated in GitLab 15.8 and will be removed in GitLab 16.0.

To import a project:

  1. When creating a new project, select Import project.
  2. In Import project from, select GitLab export.
  3. Enter your project name and URL. Then select the file you exported previously.
  4. Select Import project to begin importing. Your newly imported project page appears shortly.

To get the status of an import, you can query it through the API. As described in the API documentation, the query may return an import error or exceptions.

Changes to imported items

Exported items are imported with the following changes:

  • Project members with the Owner role are imported with the Maintainer role.
  • If an imported project contains merge requests originating from forks, new branches associated with these merge requests are created in the project. Therefore, the number of branches in the new project can be more than in the source project.
  • If the Internal visibility level is restricted, all imported projects are given Private visibility.

Deploy keys aren't imported. To use deploy keys, you must enable them in your imported project and update protected branches.

Import large projects (FREE SELF)

If you have a larger project, consider using a Rake task.

Set maximum import file size (FREE SELF)

Administrators can set the maximum import file size one of two ways:

The default is 0 (unlimited).

Rate limits

To help avoid abuse, by default, users are rate limited to:

Request type Limit
Export 6 projects per minute
Download export 1 download per group per minute
Import 6 projects per minute

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