Migrating projects using file exports

Existing projects on any self-managed GitLab instance or GitLab.com can be exported to a file and then imported into a new GitLab instance. You can also:

GitLab maps user contributions correctly when an admin access token is used to perform the import.

As a result, migrating projects using file exports does not map user contributions correctly when you are importing projects 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. For more information, see the prerequisites and important notes in these sections:

To preserve contribution history, migrate using direct transfer.

If you migrate from GitLab.com to self-managed GitLab, an administrator can create users on the self-managed GitLab instance.


On self-managed GitLab by default project, file exports are in NDJSON format. To make GitLab produce project file exports in JSON format, ask an administrator to disable the feature flags named project_export_as_ndjson. To allow GitLab to import project file exports in JSON format, ask an administrator to disable the feature flags named project_import_ndjson. On GitLab.com, project file exports are in NDJSON format only.

Project file exports are in NDJSON format. Before version 14.0, GitLab produced project file exports in JSON format. To support transitions, you can still import JSON-formatted project file exports if you configure the relevant feature flags.

From GitLab 13.0, GitLab 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

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.
  • Users must set a public email in the source GitLab instance that matches one of their verified emails in the target GitLab instance for the user mapping to work correctly.

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

The import_export.yml file for projects lists many of the items exported and imported when migrating projects using file exports. View this file in the branch for your version of GitLab to see the list of items relevant to you. For example, import_export.yml on the 14-10-stable-ee branch.

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.

Items that are exported include:

  • Project and wiki repositories
  • Project uploads
  • Project configuration, excluding integrations
  • Issues
    • Issue comments
    • Issue iteration (Introduced in 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)
  • 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 are exported as project 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 include:

Import a project and its data

Default maximum import file size changed from 50 MB to unlimited in GitLab 13.8.

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

If you have a larger project, consider using a Rake task as described in the developer documentation.

Automate group and project import

For information on automating user, group, and project import API calls, see Automate group and project import.

Maximum import file size

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

The default is 0 (unlimited).

For the GitLab.com setting, see the Account and limit settings section of the GitLab.com settings page.

Map users for import

Imported users can be mapped by their public email addresses on self-managed instances, if an administrator (not an owner) does the import.

  • The project must be exported by a project or group member with the Owner role.
  • Public email addresses are not set by default. Users must set it in their profiles for mapping to work correctly.
  • For contributions to be mapped correctly, users must be an existing member of the namespace, or they can be added as a member of the project. Otherwise, a supplementary comment is left to mention that the original author and the merge requests, notes, or issues that are owned by the importer.
  • Imported users are set as direct members in the imported project.

For project migration imports performed over GitLab.com groups, preserving author information is possible through a professional services engagement.

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