Subgroups (FREE)

Introduced in GitLab 9.0.

GitLab supports up to 20 levels of subgroups, also known as nested groups or hierarchical groups.

By using subgroups you can do the following:

  • Separate internal / external organizations. Since every group can have its own visibility level (public, internal, or private), you're able to host groups for different purposes under the same umbrella.
  • Organize large projects. For large projects, subgroups makes it potentially easier to separate permissions on parts of the source code.
  • Make it easier to manage people and control visibility. Give people different permissions depending on their group membership.

For more information on allowed permissions in groups and projects, see visibility levels.


A group can have many subgroups inside it, and at the same time a group can have only one immediate parent group. It resembles a directory behavior or a nested items list:

  • Group 1
    • Group 1.1
    • Group 1.2
      • Group 1.2.1
      • Group 1.2.2
        • Group

In a real world example, imagine maintaining a GNU/Linux distribution with the first group being the name of the distribution, and subsequent groups split as follows:

  • Organization Group - GNU/Linux distro
    • Category Subgroup - Packages
      • (project) Package01
      • (project) Package02
    • Category Subgroup - Software
      • (project) Core
      • (project) CLI
      • (project) Android app
      • (project) iOS app
    • Category Subgroup - Infra tools
      • (project) Ansible playbooks

Another example of GitLab as a company would be the following:

  • Organization Group - GitLab
    • Category Subgroup - Marketing
      • (project) Design
      • (project) General
    • Category Subgroup - Software
      • (project) GitLab CE
      • (project) GitLab EE
      • (project) Omnibus GitLab
      • (project) GitLab Runner
      • (project) GitLab Pages daemon
    • Category Subgroup - Infra tools
      • (project) Chef cookbooks
    • Category Subgroup - Executive team

When performing actions such as transferring or importing a project between subgroups, the behavior is the same as when performing these actions at the group/project level.

Creating a subgroup

Users can create subgroups if they are explicitly added as an Owner (or Maintainer, if that setting is enabled) to an immediate parent group, even if group creation is disabled by an administrator in their settings.

To create a subgroup:

  1. On the top bar, select Menu > Groups and find the parent group.
  2. In the top right, select New subgroup.
  3. Select Create group.
  4. Fill in the fields. View a list of reserved names that cannot be used as group names.
  5. Select Create group.

Change who can create subgroups

To create a subgroup you must either be an Owner or a Maintainer of the group, depending on the group's setting.

By default:

  • In GitLab 12.2 or later, both Owners and Maintainers can create subgroups.
  • In GitLab 12.1 or earlier, only Owners can create subgroups.

You can change this setting:

  • As group owner:
    1. Select the group.
    2. On the left sidebar, select Settings > General.
    3. Expand Permissions, LFS, 2FA.
  • As an administrator:
    1. On the top bar, select Menu > Admin.
    2. On the left sidebar, select Overview > Groups.
    3. Select the group, and select Edit.

For more information, view the permissions table.


When you add a member to a group, that member is also added to all subgroups. Permission level is inherited from the group's parent. This model allows access to subgroups if you have membership in one of its parents.

Jobs for pipelines in subgroups can use runners registered to the parent group(s). This means secrets configured for the parent group are available to subgroup jobs.

In addition, maintainers of projects that belong to subgroups can see the details of runners registered to parent group(s).

The group permissions for a member can be changed only by Owners, and only on the Members page of the group the member was added.

You can tell if a member has inherited the permissions from a parent group by looking at the group's Members page.

Group members page

From the image above, we can deduce the following things:

  • There are 5 members that have access to the group four.
  • User 0 is a Reporter and has inherited their permissions from group one which is above the hierarchy of group four.
  • User 1 is a Developer and has inherited their permissions from group one/two which is above the hierarchy of group four.
  • User 2 is a Developer and has inherited their permissions from group one/two/three which is above the hierarchy of group four.
  • For User 3 the Source column indicates Direct member, therefore they belong to group four, the one we're inspecting.
  • Administrator is the Owner and member of all subgroups and for that reason, as with User 3, the Source column indicates Direct member.

Members can be filtered by inherited or direct membership.

Overriding the ancestor group membership

NOTE: You must be an Owner of a group to be able to add members to it.

NOTE: A user's permissions in a subgroup cannot be lower than in any of its ancestor groups. Therefore, you cannot reduce a user's permissions in a subgroup with respect to its ancestor groups.

To override a user's membership of an ancestor group (the first group they were added to), add the user to the new subgroup again with a higher set of permissions.

For example, if User 1 was first added to group one/two with Developer permissions, then they inherit those permissions in every other subgroup of one/two. To give them the Maintainer role for group one/two/three/four, you would add them again in that group as Maintainer. Removing them from that group, the permissions fall back to those of the ancestor group.

Mentioning subgroups

Mentioning groups (@group) in issues, commits and merge requests, would notify all members of that group. Now with subgroups, there is more granular support if you want to split your group's structure. Mentioning works as before and you can choose the group of people to be notified.

Mentioning subgroups


Here's a list of what you can't do with subgroups:

  • GitLab Pages supports projects hosted under a subgroup, but not subgroup websites. That means that only the highest-level group supports group websites, although you can have project websites under a subgroup.
  • It is not possible to share a project with a group that's an ancestor of the group the project is in. That means you can only share as you walk down the hierarchy. For example, group/subgroup01/project cannot be shared with group, but can be shared with group/subgroup02 or group/subgroup01/subgroup03.