Merge request approval rules

Approval rules define how many approvals a merge request must receive before it can be merged, and which users should do the approving. You can define approval rules:

If you don’t define a default approval rule, any user can approve a merge request. Even if you don’t define a rule, you can still enforce a minimum number of required approvers in the project’s settings.

You can define a single rule to approve merge requests from among the available rules, or you can select multiple approval rules.

Merge requests that target a different project, such as from a fork to the upstream project, use the default approval rules from the target (upstream) project, not the source (fork).

Add an approval rule

To add a merge request approval rule:

  1. Go to your project and select Settings > General.
  2. Expand Merge request (MR) approvals, and then select Add approval rule.
  3. Add a human-readable Rule name.
  4. Set the number of required approvals in Approvals required. A value of 0 makes the rule optional, and any number greater than 0 creates a required rule.
  5. To add users or groups as approvers, search for users or groups that are eligible to approve, and select Add. GitLab suggests approvers based on previous authors of the files changed by the merge request.

    note On GitLab.com, you can add a group as an approver if you’re a member of that group or the group is public.
  6. Select Add approval rule.

Users of GitLab Premium and higher tiers can create additional approval rules.

Your configuration for approval rule overrides determines if the new rule is applied to existing merge requests:

  • If approval rule overrides are allowed, changes to these default rules are not applied to existing merge requests, except for changes to the target branch of the rule.
  • If approval rule overrides are not allowed, all changes to default rules are applied to existing merge requests. Any approval rules that were previously manually overridden during the period when approval rule overrides where allowed, are not modified.

Edit an approval rule

To edit a merge request approval rule:

  1. Go to your project and select Settings > General.
  2. Expand Merge request (MR) approvals, and then select Edit.
  3. (Optional) Change the Rule name.
  4. Set the number of required approvals in Approvals required. The minimum value is 0.
  5. Add or remove eligible approvers, as needed:
    • To add users or groups as approvers, search for users or groups that are eligible to approve, and select Add.

      noteOn GitLab.com, you can add a group as an approver if you’re a member of that group or the group is public.
    • To remove users or groups, identify the group or user to remove, and select Remove.

  6. Select Update approval rule.

Add multiple approval rules

Introduced in GitLab Premium 11.10.

In GitLab Premium and higher tiers, you can enforce multiple approval rules on a merge request, and multiple default approval rules for a project. If your tier supports multiple default rules:

  • When adding or editing an approval rule for a project, GitLab displays the Add approval rule button even after a rule is defined.
  • When editing or overriding multiple approval rules on a merge request, GitLab displays the Add approval rule button even after a rule is defined.

When an eligible approver approves a merge request, it reduces the number of approvals left (the Approvals column) for all rules that the approver belongs to:

Approvals premium merge request widget

Eligible approvers

Introduced in GitLab 13.3, when an eligible approver comments on a merge request, it appears in the Commented by column of the Approvals widget.

To be eligible as an approver for a project, a user must be a member of one or more of these:

The following users can approve merge requests if they have Developer or higher permissions:

  • Users added as approvers at the project or merge request level.
  • Users who are Code owners of the files changed in the merge request.

To show who has participated in the merge request review, the Approvals widget in a merge request displays a Commented by column. This column lists eligible approvers who commented on the merge request. It helps authors and reviewers identify who to contact with questions about the merge request’s content.

If the number of required approvals is greater than the number of assigned approvers, approvals from other users with Developer permissions or higher in the project counts toward meeting the required number of approvals, even if the users were not explicitly listed in the approval rules.

Group approvers

You can add a group of users as approvers, but those users count as approvers only if they have direct membership to the group. In the future, group approvers may be restricted to only groups with share access to the project.

A user’s membership in an approvers group affects their individual ability to approve in these ways:

  • A user already part of a group approver who is later added as an individual approver counts as one approver, and not two.
  • Merge request authors do not count as eligible approvers on their own merge requests by default. To change this behavior, disable the Prevent author approval project setting.
  • Committers to merge requests can approve a merge request. To change this behavior, enable the Prevent committers approval project setting.

Code owners as eligible approvers

Version history
  • Introduced in GitLab 11.5.
  • Moved to GitLab Premium in 13.9.

If you add code owners to your repository, the owners of files become eligible approvers in the project. To enable this merge request approval rule:

  1. Go to your project and select Settings > General.
  2. Expand Merge request (MR) approvals.
  3. Locate Any eligible user and select the number of approvals required:

    MR approvals by Code Owners

You can also require code owner approval for protected branches.

Merge request approval segregation of duties

Version history
  • Introduced in GitLab 13.4.
  • Moved to GitLab Premium in 13.9.

You may need to grant users with Reporter permissions, permission to approve merge requests before they can merge to a protected branch. Some users (like managers) may not need permission to push or merge code, but still need oversight on proposed work. To enable approval permissions for these users without granting them push access:

  1. Create a protected branch
  2. Create a new group.
  3. Add the user to the group, and select the Reporter role for the user.
  4. Share the project with your group, based on the Reporter role.
  5. Go to your project and select Settings > General.
  6. Expand Merge request (MR) approvals.
  7. Select Add approval rule or Update approval rule and target the protected branch.
  8. Add the group to the permission list.

    Update approval rule

Edit or override merge request approval rules

By default, the merge request author (or a user with sufficient permissions) can edit the approval rule listed in a merge request. When editing an approval rule on a merge request, you can either add or remove approvers:

  1. In the merge request, find the Approval rules section.
  2. When creating a new merge request, scroll to the Approval Rules section, and add or remove your desired approval rules before selecting Create merge request.
  3. When viewing an existing merge request:
    1. Select Edit.
    2. Scroll to the Approval Rules section.
    3. Add or remove your desired approval rules.
    4. Select Save changes.

Administrators can change the merge request approvals settings to prevent users from overriding approval rules for merge requests.

Configure optional approval rules

Merge request approvals can be optional for projects where approvals are appreciated, but not required. To make an approval rule optional:

Approvals for protected branches

Introduced in GitLab Premium 12.8.

Approval rules are often relevant only to specific branches, like your default branch. To configure an approval rule for certain branches:

  1. Create an approval rule.
  2. Go to your project and select Settings.
  3. Expand Merge request (MR) approvals.
  4. Select a Target branch:
    • To protect all branches, select Any branch.
    • To select a specific branch, select it from the list:

      Scoped to protected branch

  5. To enable this configuration, read Code Owner’s approvals for protected branches.