Applying for an ICP license is important for any foreign company that wants to establish a China-based website to build its business or do e-commerce in China.
If you are considering entering the Chinese online market to expand your business then you need to know what an ICP license is and if your company needs one.
An ICP license number can be found at the bottom of the website hosted in China.
If you need an ICP license because you want to host your website in Mainland China then read on to find out how to apply for it.
Some important notes
Before I explain the documents needed and the process to follow I want to point out some important facts to note.
- There are two types of ICP license: personal and commercial
- Individuals can’t apply for a commercial ICP license
- Foreign passport holders can’t be the named contact for the website
- Depending on the type of website and the province where the company is registered, the application will take between three to six weeks
- Foreign companies can’t apply for an ICP (this includes Hong Kong, Macau and Taiwan)
- The website must be hosted within Mainland China to apply for an ICP license
- An ICP license is required prior to activation for new .cn domain name websites
- The best way to apply for an ICP license is through the hosting provider
What’s the difference between a personal and a commercial ICP license?
A personal ICP license can’t be used for websites related to group buying, law business, medical business, e-commerce and forums. Anything that can be considered commercial in anyway is off limits.
A personal ICP license can be used for websites that are focussing on general information such as recipes, travel diaries and experience sharing in general.
- A copy of the company Chinese business license
- ID card copy of contact person (must be Chinese national)
- Photo ID of business owner (can be a foreign national)
- Signed ICP application forms (the paper form can be filled in and scanned) – information must include
- Official company name
- Company registered address
- Type of company
- Contact person’s ID card number, mobile number, office line number, email address
- Website information i.e. domain name, homepage, website name, type of website, type of content
- Note that certain businesses such as news sites, publishing, education, healthcare, medicines, culture and broadcasting will need to include further documentation
All forms must be completed in Chinese only
The best way to apply for an ICP license is to go through the hosting company that you are using. All hosting companies in China provide the ICP license application service.
Below is a step-by-step guide to complete the process.
- Go to the hosting provider’s ICP license application page
- Fill in personal details and company information
- Upload personal and company material onto the ICP application system
- The application system will then verify the information. This will be completed in 2 to 3 business days
- After the information has passed verification you need to take a photo of the website owner at a local verification point
The important part to note here is that the image must have a specific background. You’ll have to go to a specified public place to do this and pay a fee to have the photo taken.
It’s also possible to get a copy of the background sent to you and add the image to it.
- After passing photo verification, send off the paper application and business license. Below is a copy of the form to be filled in.
Once complete the form can be scanned and sent off electronically.
- At this point the application might be inspected by a government department. This can take 15 to 20 working days
- While awaiting for approval by the government your site can officially go online
- If your application is denied due to submitting wrong or missing information, you will have to go through the process again
After the ICP license has been approved you will receive an email from the Beian government office.
We get a lot of questions asking about getting an ICP license such as:
- I am hosting a website in Malaysia, even though I do not need it, can I still apply for the ICP License?
- I have a Chinese business entity and I have a .com domain. I am ready to apply for an ICP license. Do I still need a hosting provider?
Getting an ICP license is a long and complicated process. We’d only suggest that you do it if you really need to. This means making sure you need an ICP license in the first place. And if you do then this means following all the steps above.
Cover image source: achang.com
If you have any questions about the ICP license process leave a comment below