ICP license - Open E-Commerce in China Shanghai
ICP license for E-commerce China Guide

ICP license - All you need to know

China has the second largest economy in the world. The country is now welcoming foreign companies, and since the Western market is not growing as rapidly, many investors are looking at China with increasing interest. That potential has extended into the online domain. With the world’s largest online population, Chine offers unlimited e-commerce potential for your brand.

Analysts worldwide agree that China still has tremendous growth potential, so it’s not surprising that entrepreneurs are targeting this market as their next move. Emerging middle, and upper classes make this market a high-growth area for a broad range of consumer brands and industries.

As an entrepreneur, you can approach the Chinese market in different ways. One strategy is to develop a web presence in mainland China; however, to do so, you need an ICP license. In this article, we will explain what an ICP license is, why it is essential to your enterprise, the details behind the certification, and how to get one so you can start growing your business in China.

What Is an ICP License?

ICP is short for Internet Content Provider, also called ICP Bei An. An ICP license, issued by the Chinese Ministry of Industry and Information Technology (MIIT), allows your China-based website(s) to operate in the country.

There are two kinds of ICP licenses:

ICP Commercial license

Is an ICP license for commercial websites (operational), this permit allows you to operate an e-commerce website. So if your intention is to generate income through online sales, advertisement or conducting business activities that involves payments through your platform an ICP Commercial license will be required.

ICP Filing

Also known as 'Bei'an' in Chinese, an ICP Filing is a license for non-commercial websites (informational), with this license your site will be accessible in mainland China, however this license does not allow you to sell directly online.

How to get ICP License China info-graphic QPSoftwre

Why Do You Need An ICP License?

As we already mentioned, if you want to establish a China-based website for any purpose, you must have an ICP license. There are two critical reasons why the ICP license is important:

Other benefits of getting an ICP License

  • Gain trust from the users
  • Allows you to host your website in China
  • Allows you to operate with Baidu PPC

Is It Essential to Have an ICP License?

There’s not a black-and-white answer to this question. It all depends on your business goals. If the Chinese market is not your primary objective, then you don’t need one. But if you are targeting this market and are serious about developing your business here, then you must have an ICP license.

A note of caution: If you choose not to apply for an ICP license and hope to do business through a site hosted outside China, there is a slight chance that your website will not get blocked. However, if it does, there is no possible way to unblock it again.

That in turn has the potential to cause significant consequences to your commercial activities. By circumventing the ICP license requirements, your Chinese venture may be put at unnecessary risk. It is therefore essential to satisfy the regulations set forth, by submitting the required documentation. Failing to do so places potential scrutiny and hindrance to any future business activities within the Chinese market.

Enabling of 3rd-party vendors to use your site as an intermediary in commercial activities also requires use of an ICP license.

Who Can Get an ICP License?

Not everyone can successfully obtain an ICP license. It may depend on what kind of website you are trying to register. As a general rule, a Chinese citizen or a Chinese company has a better chance of getting approved than an international applicant.

In these cases, it is advised for foreign investors to seek a Chinese venture partner. This presents various advantages, which include a streamlined process when carrying out the application.

If you want to get an ICP License you should take into account the next restrictions:

  • Foreign passport holders can be the named contact for the website but they will be contacted and they should be able to speak Mandarin
  • The application time varies depending on the province and kind of website
  • Foreign companies without a local business license cannot applu for an ICP license 

What Are The Steps To Get An ICP License?

First, you have to consider that every province in China has different regulations. We’re not talking about significant differences here, but some provinces are certainly easier to deal with than others. In general, these are the steps you need to follow:

  1. Register a domain in China with a Chinese-based domain provider and buy a hosting plan. This domain provider must also hold an authorisation by the MIIT.
  2. Receive your Bei An service number.
  3. Register for the Aliyun ICP Management System.
  4. Log in to the Aliyun ICP Management System and fill out the registration form.
  5. Submit your documents for Aliyun’s approval.This must include the full name of the ICP filing subject, as well as the owner of the China-based domain.
  6. Submit a recent picture of yourself.

    >  If you are submitting your application under a personal capacity, then be sure to provide a scan, or clear photo of your personal ID information. 
    > If you are submitting your application as a company, then ensure that you provide a scan, or clear photo of the company registration documents, as applicable to your registration. Additionally, you may need to include a scan, or clear photo of the personal ID information of individuals under whom, your ICP ruling has been made successful. 
    > In other cases, of application of an ICP license, you may be required to submit documentation to the Local Communications Administration, as it pertains to your jurisdiction. The documents in question would be, a scan, or clear photo of your Registration Certificate, as well as your domain name.

  7. Wait for MIIT to approve.
  8. Congratulations, your application for an ICP license is a success! In this case, your license may take the form of one of the following:

    > B 25 Information Service Type Permit
    > B 21 Online Data Processing & Transaction Processing Permit

With this in-mind, it is essential for your business to initiate the document application process as easy as possible. Ensure that you address any possible contingencies within the timeline of obtaining your ICP license. When doing so, you should assume the maximum possible waiting period to obtain this documentation.

How Long Does It Take to Get an ICP License?

Whether you apply for an ICP license on your own or through an agency, the process will take time. In general, if you do everything by yourself it will take between three and six weeks. The waiting time may vary depending on the province and the nature of your business.

How Much Does It Cost to Get an ICP License?

The price will vary by the agency; however, agencies will charge you per domain, so the more domains you have, the more it will cost you.

Where to place your ICP License number?

ICP license numbers must be displayed on your website in a clear and visible way, we recommend to place it on the footer of your website. ICP numbers also contain a Chinese character that indicates the province in which the license was issued. 

What Should Your Next Step Be?

Probably the next step to stablish your online business in China after acquiring your ICP license is to register a .cn domain, check our blog post by clicking the image to know how to do it in the proper way.

If you need to host your website in China, register an ICP license, or create a stunning website or mobile app, contact us. We will partner with you to make the process as smooth as possible.

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