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I have been having issues with giving users permissions for a while now.
When I go to the repository settings (or the project's settings for that matter) and I try to search for a user to grant permissions I am often unable to find that user...
The thing is, that even If I try to find my user, or some other person's user (that person having permissions already, so they are in the list right below the serach box) they still don't appear usually...
I expect the standard answer will be "that user needs to have a bitbucket account". Well, I work for a large company and as far as I know, we all have bitbucket accounts... If not, how can I see if that user has or has not a "bitbucket account"? Moreover... if that was the explanation, how come I can't find users which I know for a fact have access to other bitbucket repos/projects?
Bitbucket only finds users who is not already added on the repository already. If the user is already added, it won't find that user.
In your case, as you already suspected, you will need to check whether the new user you are trying to add is a valid Bitbucker user or not. If you are an admin, you can check under Users. If you are not, you might have to get help from the admin.
To workaround, you can also click on an existing user's name to get the direct url to the user profile and then replace the username with the new user's name to see if that user exists in Bitbucket or not. In many big companies, only users in certain groups are synced to Bitbucket. Depends on how it is implemented in your company!