Protected Branches

Permissions in GitLab are fundamentally defined around the idea of having read or write permission to the repository and branches. To impose further restrictions on certain branches, they can be protected.


By default, a protected branch does four simple things:

  • It prevents its creation, if not already created, from everybody except users with Maintainer permission.
  • It prevents pushes from everybody except users with Allowed permission.
  • It prevents anyone from force pushing to the branch.
  • It prevents anyone from deleting the branch.

NOTE: Note: A GitLab admin is allowed to push to the protected branches.

See the Changelog section for changes over time.

The default branch protection level is set in the Admin Area.

Configuring protected branches

To protect a branch, you need to have at least Maintainer permission level. Note that the master branch is protected by default.

  1. Navigate to your project's Settings ➔ Repository

  2. Scroll to find the Protected branches section.

  3. From the Branch dropdown menu, select the branch you want to protect and click Protect. In the screenshot below, we chose the develop branch.

    Protected branches page

  4. Once done, the protected branch will appear in the "Protected branches" list.

    Protected branches list

Using the Allowed to merge and Allowed to push settings

Introduced in GitLab 8.11.

Since GitLab 8.11, we added another layer of branch protection which provides more granular management of protected branches. The "Developers can push" option was replaced by an "Allowed to push" setting which can be set to allow/prohibit Maintainers and/or Developers to push to a protected branch.

Using the "Allowed to push" and "Allowed to merge" settings, you can control the actions that different roles can perform with the protected branch. For example, you could set "Allowed to push" to "No one", and "Allowed to merge" to "Developers + Maintainers", to require everyone to submit a merge request for changes going into the protected branch. This is compatible with workflows like the GitLab workflow.

However, there are workflows where that is not needed, and only protecting from force pushes and branch removal is useful. For those workflows, you can allow everyone with write access to push to a protected branch by setting "Allowed to push" to "Developers + Maintainers".

You can set the "Allowed to push" and "Allowed to merge" options while creating a protected branch or afterwards by selecting the option you want from the dropdown list in the "Already protected" area.

Developers can push

If you don't choose any of those options while creating a protected branch, they are set to "Maintainers" by default.

Restricting push and merge access to certain users (STARTER)

Introduced in GitLab Starter 8.11.

With GitLab Enterprise Edition you can restrict access to protected branches by choosing a role (Maintainers, Developers) as well as certain users. From the dropdown menu select the role and/or the users you want to have merge or push access.

Select roles and users

Click Protect and the branch will appear in the "Protected branch" list.

Roles and users list

Wildcard protected branches

Introduced in GitLab 8.10.

You can specify a wildcard protected branch, which will protect all branches matching the wildcard. For example:

Wildcard Protected Branch Matching Branches
*-stable production-stable, staging-stable
production/* production/app-server, production/load-balancer
*gitlab* gitlab, gitlab/staging, master/gitlab/production

Protected branch settings (like "Developers can push") apply to all matching branches.

Two different wildcards can potentially match the same branch. For example, *-stable and production-* would both match a production-stable branch. In that case, if any of these protected branches have a setting like "Allowed to push", then production-stable will also inherit this setting.

If you click on a protected branch's name, you will be presented with a list of all matching branches:

Protected branch matches

Creating a protected branch

Introduced in GitLab 11.9.

When a protected branch or wildcard protected branches are set to No one is Allowed to push, Developers (and users with higher permission levels) are allowed to create a new protected branch as long as they are Allowed to merge. This can only be done via the UI or through the API (to avoid creating protected branches accidentally from the command line or from a Git client application).

To create a new branch through the user interface:

  1. Visit Repository > Branches.
  2. Click on New branch.
  3. Fill in the branch name and select an existing branch, tag, or commit that the new branch will be based off. Only existing protected branches and commits that are already in protected branches will be accepted.

Deleting a protected branch

Introduced in GitLab 9.3.

From time to time, it may be required to delete or clean up branches that are protected.

User with Maintainer permissions and up can manually delete protected branches via GitLab's web interface:

  1. Visit Repository > Branches

  2. Click on the delete icon next to the branch you wish to delete

  3. In order to prevent accidental deletion, an additional confirmation is required

    Delete protected branches

Deleting a protected branch is only allowed via the web interface, not via Git. This means that you can't accidentally delete a protected branch from your command line or a Git client application.

Protected Branches approval by Code Owners (PREMIUM)

Introduced in GitLab Premium 12.4.

It is possible to require at least one approval by a Code Owner to a file changed by the merge request. You can either set Code Owners approvals at the time you protect a new branch, or set it to a branch already protected, as described below.

To protect a new branch and enable Code Owner's approval:

  1. Navigate to your project's Settings > Repository and expand Protected branches.
  2. Scroll down to Protect a branch, select a Branch or wildcard you'd like to protect, select who's Allowed to merge and Allowed to push, and toggle the Require approval from code owners slider.
  3. Click Protect.

Code Owners approval - new protected branch

To enable Code Owner's approval to branches already protected:

  1. Navigate to your project's Settings > Repository and expand Protected branches.
  2. Scroll down to Protected branch and toggle the Code owner approval slider for the chosen branch.

Code Owners approval - branch already protected

When enabled, all merge requests targeting these branches will require approval by a Code Owner per matched rule before they can be merged. Additionally, direct pushes to the protected branch are denied if a rule is matched.

Running pipelines on protected branches

The permission to merge or push to protected branches is used to define if a user can run CI/CD pipelines and execute actions on jobs that are related to those branches.

See Security on protected branches for details about the pipelines security model.




  • Allow deletion of protected branches via the web interface (issue #21393).