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I am using SharePoint 2013 Server and this workflow is a migration from 2010.

I am trying to create workflow that fires up when document is created or modified and sends mail to approver or auto approve when document does not meet certain conditions and has no approver. I am not using OOTB in 'Approval workflow', but rather have something simple with one mail and link to approver.

Sending mail with document link when conditions are met and also approving when document is created or modified by user within approver group works.

However there is a problem when document is created by user with no approve access permissions and conditions are not met which means there is no approver for this particular document. In workflow this goes to 'set content approval status approved' and this is what I intended, but I get an error that this field can not be set and 'access is denied'.

Is there a way to perform this while not giving all users 'approve' permission?

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You can add the approval steps inside an impersonation step. An impersonation step causes the actions within that step to run as the author of the workflow. I recommend publishing the workflow as a service account (rather than as yourself or a system account) which you've given approval rights for that library.

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