An ICP license is mandatory for all businesses that are seeking to manage a website in China. What is an ICP license? How do you obtain it and why do you need it? We explain all in this how-to guide.
Major businesses and global brands have already begun their march into the world’s second largest economy that is China in their bids to claim a foothold on the vast Chinese market. With the internet penetration in China at a high of 59.6%, or 829 million people, of the population (as recorded in December 2018) and rising, there is little wonder that most global businesses are turning to the internet to grow their brands and increase their presence in the China market.
What is an ICP license?
ICP, or Internet Content Provider, is also known as ICP Bei-an (备案) and is issued by the Chinese Ministry of Industry and Information Technology. It permits businesses with a China-based website to operate legally in China. Therefore, with an ICP license, you can host your website on a China server which basically translates to having a site that runs and loads faster, and you will also gain access to a China CDN (Content Delivery Network). Before your website goes live, you must first apply for and have received your ICP license.
What types of ICP licenses are there?
An ICP Filing (also known as ‘Bei-an’ in Chinese) is a license for non-commercial websites. A website with an ICP Filing license will be accessible in China but you are not allowed to sell any products on your site with this license. The registration process for the ICP Filing is faster than for the commercial license and applicants can expect to have their request handled within 2 months.
The commercial ICP license is for businesses looking to sell products online in China, such as an e-commerce website. For any business activities conducted via a website that is hosted on a China server, such as monetary transactions (payment) and advertising, the ICP commercial license is mandatory.
What do I need to prepare for the application process?
Some documents and information that you will need to have prepared for the registration process include:
- Signed copy of application form for ICP license
- Business website domain name certification
- Copy of your business license in China
- Info on contact person in China (must be Chinese national)
- Info on company owner (can be foreigner)
- Photo of webmaster
How do I apply for an ICP license?
The application process is available on the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology (MIIT) website. As the application is only available in Simplified Chinese, you will require assistance from someone who is able to read Chinese.
- Firstly, register for a domain name and hosting server based in China. You will need your confirmed domain and server information when filling in the ICP license registration form.
- Acquire your ICP service number. This number, also known as the Bei-an service number, will be bound to the server and domain that you had previously registered for. If you have more than one domain and server, you will be able to obtain more than one ICP server number.
- Register on the ICP Management System.
- Log into the ICP Management System. Here, you will be required to input the following information:
- ICP service number
- Province/district you are located at
- Type of ICP license you are applying for
- Type of identification
- Identification number
- Domain name
- Chinese landline number
- Chinese mobile number
- Passport photo
- Additional information on your website and business
- Submission of documents
- Wait for approval by the MIIT. This should take between 3 to 6 weeks, and varies in different provinces/cities.
What if I have not a registered my business in China?
If your business is not yet registered in China, you won’t be able to apply for an ICP license. You could consider registering your business as Wholly Owned Foreign Enterprise (WOFE), but this will take up to 6 months to process if you start today. Or you might also be attracted to let an agency register your ICP license for you, however there are significant risks in handing over your Intellectual Property, website database or domain name. The preferred option for many of our clients is to host your website in Hong Kong, as the close proximity to China, provides better speeds than other countries.
In conclusion, as long as you have the proper documentation and a legitimate registered business in China, you will be able to obtain an ICP license.
However, if our guide is starting to look like a bit of headache, you’re not alone. It can be a frustrating process and if you are unfamiliar with China, you might not know where to start.
Here at eggplant digital, we not only provide services to obtain your ICP license under your business in as little as 10 working days, our server engineers also do the setup and management of cloud hosting in China on your behalf.
If you have a question, please leave a comment or get in touch today and let’s get started.