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ICP Licensing, Regulations, and Chinese Servers Guide

Michelle Wang // Last Updated: 11 May 2020

Every country is unique in their business requirements and China is no different. Due to the government's attention to online activities it is necessary for every website owner to be very transparent to the government regarding their ownership and management. The vehicle for this is the ICP License, a necessary step for organizations wishing to publish their website online via Chinese servers.

What is an ICP license?

“ICP License” is the abbreviation for “Internet Content Provider License”. It is a permit required by the Chinese government to host your website in mainland China. After getting your domain and hosting, applying for ICP license is essential before you can launch your website. When you successfully get it, a small print of your ICP license number needs to be put at the footer of your webpages.



Can I apply for an ICP license?

For enterprise ICP license, it requires a company registered in mainland China. It’s OK if the legal person of the company is not a Chinese national, as long as he/she has a landline phone number, a mobile phone number and an address in China.

For individual ICP license, you must be a Chinese national or a foreigner who has a fixed residence in China.

Note that the ICP license application will be a complicated and exhausting process and everything is in Chinese. So, if you don’t speak or read Chinese, it’s strongly suggested to have a Chinese person or a web agency to help deal with it. If you don’t have the qualifications to apply for ICP license, or simply don’t want to spend so much time and energy on the application, an alternative option is to host your site in Hong Kong, China. No ICP license needed there, and your hosting is geographically closer to mainland China.

How to get an ICP license?


Step1: Get your domain and hosting ready


Though the ICP license is issued by Chinese Ministry of Industry and Information Technology (MIIT), the application needs to be done via web hosting providers. They do the pre-audit and communications with you and then submit your application to MIIT.


There are many options of Chinese servers on the market. But without a doubt, Aliyun (Alibaba Cloud) is the most popular one. According to the British research organization Canalys, in 2019 Q4 Aliyun’s market share is 46.4%, which is much more than the second provider’s 18.0%.

Aliyun is a reliable and affordable option for Chinese servers and has good support during the whole ICP license application process. There are also some other good options like Tencent Cloud, Baidu Cloud etc.

 


We’ll go through the following steps with Aliyun as an example. But the process is pretty much the same with other hosting providers.

Step 2: Get your ICP service number


After logging in Aliyun, you can find the ICP service number(备案服务号) in the user center. This service number will bind your server and domain.

Step 3: Register ICP filing management system


Then you can go to the Aliyun ICP filing management platform, create an account with your email address.

Step 4: Fill out forms and upload documents in the ICP filing system


Once you have your account ready, you can officially start the application after logging in the ICP filing system.

 

  • Enter information of your organization, website, domain, address, type and number of ID/business license, the system will determine your ICP filing type.
  • Enter your ICP service number and verify your server instance
  • Choose the type and language of your website
  • Enter information of the person in charge of the organization and website. Basic contact information such as name, ID/passport number, address, email address, landline number and phone number are required. Note that before submitting the contact information, the system will send a verification code to your phone. You can only proceed after entering the code in the form within limited time.
  • Uploading photos or scanned files of documents including your ID card (if you’re a Chinese national) or passport (if you’re a foreigner), and your business license if you apply for enterprise ICP license.
  • You also need to download an Information Confirmation Form(信息核验单) from the system and print it out. Take a photo or scan it after filling it out, sign it and stamp it. And finally upload the file to the system.

Step 5: Confirm the information and submit for Aliyun’s review

 

Double check all the information and documents, and confirm that everything is correct. Submit your application for Aliyun’s pre-audit. It will take 1-2 days for the reviewing process.


Keep your phone close as Aliyun may call you if there’s any revisions needed in your application.

 

Step 6: Take your photo


If all is good with the information and documents submitted, Aliyun will lead you to the next step of taking your photo. The most common way is to visit one of the photo-taking places they have, or ask them to mail a curtain to you to take the photo yourself.

Good news is that if you’re in Shanghai, or provinces where online photo-taking is allowed, you can simply download an Aliyun app, take photos with your phone and submit online directly.


Step 7: Wait for MIIT’s review


Aliyun will officially submit your application to MIIT. The final review process will be longer there, which normally takes 7-21 working days. Usually you should be safe if you already pass the review on Aliyun. So just be patient and wait.


Step 8: Congratulations! Success!

 

When you receive the MIIT’s review result through email and SMS, congratulations! You finally get your ICP license!

 

What to do after getting ICP license?

 

When you successfully get your ICP license number, you can finally add it to the footer, link it to http://www.beian.miit.gov.cn/ and launch your website. But note that if it’s an enterprise website which generates income or provides a platform to generate revenue, it requires a further step of applying for ICP commercial license. Unfortunately, this step can not be done online, you must go to your local government physically to apply for it.

 

Not Quite Done - Very Important Extra Procedure:

Also, having an ICP license doesn’t mean everything’s done. Within 30 days after you get ICP license, you need to register a PSB filing at China Cyber Security Management Platform. Or your website is not yet a legal presence on the Chinese internet and could face the possibility of getting shut down.

 

Conclusion

If you have the time and patience you can probably achieve getting your ICP license without much issue. To get it most efficiently we do recommend hiring a web dev agency in China or Shanghai such as SEIRIM to help with the process. Any questions feel free to contact us!

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Michelle
Wang

Michelle is SEIRIM's lead Project Manager - taking care of our biggest clients and projects and many projects that require Chinese language work. She started years ago as a backend web developer but has really branched out into her hobby interest of video editing and production. She now does all things video related, including complex 3D and 2D cartoon animations.

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