Pipelines for Merge Requests

Introduced in GitLab 11.6.

In a basic configuration, GitLab runs a pipeline each time changes are pushed to a branch.

If you want the pipeline to run jobs only when merge requests are created or updated, you can use pipelines for merge requests.

In the UI, these pipelines are labeled as detached. Otherwise, these pipelines appear the same as other pipelines.

Any user who has developer permissions can run a pipeline for merge requests.

Merge request page

NOTE: Note: If you use this feature with merge when pipeline succeeds, pipelines for merge requests take precedence over the other regular pipelines.


To enable pipelines for merge requests:

Configuring pipelines for merge requests

To configure pipelines for merge requests you need to configure your CI/CD configuration file. There are a few different ways to do this:

Use rules to run pipelines for merge requests

When using rules, which is the preferred method, we recommend starting with one of the workflow:rules templates to ensure your basic configuration is correct. Instructions on how to do this, as well as how to customize, are available at that link.

Use only or except to run pipelines for merge requests

If you want to continue using only/except, this is possible but please review the drawbacks below.

When you use this method, you have to specify only: - merge_requests for each job. In this example, the pipeline contains a test job that is configured to run on merge requests.

The build and deploy jobs don't have the only: - merge_requests parameter, so they will not run on merge requests.

  stage: build
  script: ./build
  - master

  stage: test
  script: ./test
  - merge_requests

  stage: deploy
  script: ./deploy
  - master

Excluding certain jobs

The behavior of the only: [merge_requests] parameter is such that only jobs with that parameter are run in the context of a merge request; no other jobs will be run.

However, you can invert this behavior and have all of your jobs run except for one or two.

Consider the following pipeline, with jobs A, B, and C. Imagine you want:

  • All pipelines to always run A and B.
  • C to run only for merge requests.

To achieve this, you can configure your .gitlab-ci.yml file as follows:

.only-default: &only-default
    - master
    - merge_requests
    - tags

  <<: *only-default
    - ...

  <<: *only-default
    - ...

    - ...
    - merge_requests


  • Since A and B are getting the only: rule to execute in all cases, they will always run.
  • Since C specifies that it should only run for merge requests, it will not run for any pipeline except a merge request pipeline.

This helps you avoid having to add the only: rule to all of your jobs in order to make them always run. You can use this format to set up a Review App, helping to save resources.

Excluding certain branches

Pipelines for merge requests require special treatment when using only/except. Unlike ordinary branch refs (for example refs/heads/my-feature-branch), merge request refs use a special Git reference that looks like refs/merge-requests/:iid/head. Because of this, the following configuration will not work as expected:

# Does not exclude a branch named "docs-my-fix"!
  only: [merge_requests]
  except: [/^docs-/]

Instead, you can use the $CI_COMMIT_REF_NAME predefined environment variable in combination with only:variables to accomplish this behavior:

  only: [merge_requests]
      - $CI_COMMIT_REF_NAME =~ /^docs-/

Pipelines for Merged Results (PREMIUM)

Read the documentation on Pipelines for Merged Results.

Merge Trains (PREMIUM)

Read the documentation on Merge Trains.

Important notes about merge requests from forked projects

Note that the current behavior is subject to change. In the usual contribution flow, external contributors follow the following steps:

  1. Fork a parent project.
  2. Create a merge request from the forked project that targets the master branch in the parent project.
  3. A pipeline runs on the merge request.
  4. A maintainer from the parent project checks the pipeline result, and merge into a target branch if the latest pipeline has passed.

Currently, those pipelines are created in a forked project, not in the parent project. This means you cannot completely trust the pipeline result, because, technically, external contributors can disguise their pipeline results by tweaking their GitLab Runner in the forked project.

There are multiple reasons why GitLab doesn't allow those pipelines to be created in the parent project, but one of the biggest reasons is security concern. External users could steal secret variables from the parent project by modifying .gitlab-ci.yml, which could be some sort of credentials. This should not happen.

We're discussing a secure solution of running pipelines for merge requests that are submitted from forked projects, see the issue about the permission extension.

Additional predefined variables

By using pipelines for merge requests, GitLab exposes additional predefined variables to the pipeline jobs. Those variables contain information of the associated merge request, so that it's useful to integrate your job with GitLab Merge Request API.

You can find the list of available variables in the reference sheet. The variable names begin with the CI_MERGE_REQUEST_ prefix.


Two pipelines created when pushing to a merge request

If you are experiencing duplicated pipelines when using rules, take a look at the key details when using rules, which will help you get your starting configuration correct.

If you are seeing two pipelines when using only/except, please see the caveats related to using only/except above (or, consider moving to rules).

Two pipelines created when pushing an invalid CI configuration file

Pushing to a branch with an invalid CI configuration file can trigger the creation of two types of failed pipelines. One pipeline is a failed merge request pipeline, and the other is a failed branch pipeline, but both are caused by the same invalid configuration.

In rare cases, duplicate pipelines are created.

See this issue for details.