How to obtain ICP license in China

How to get an ICP license in China [Guide for New Brands]

Last Updated on June 11, 2024

Localizing websites and launching e-commerce stores are proven and tested strategies for foreign companies trying to establish a solid presence in China’s digital ecosystem. You can try other ways to enter the Chinese market, but no matter which one you choose, chances are you’ll circle back to needing an ICP permit.

With the local government imposing stringent digital content and advertising restrictions, having an Internet Content Provider (ICP) license can save you from potential business interruption.

In this post, we’ll discuss why you need an ICP license in China, the process of obtaining it, and the advantages it can provide for your business as it operates within the Chinese market.


What is an ICP license in China?

An Internet Content Provider (ICP) license is a digital permit that companies must acquire if they want to launch or host a website in China. They can obtain this requirement from the Chinese Ministry of Industry and Information Technology (MIIT).

Beyond launching a Chinese website, you’ll also find ICP licenses handy requirements to have when launching WeChat mini-programs or opening virtual storefronts on other e-commerce platforms in China.


ICP and PSB filings

Our client Rioja Wine’s website with its ICP License Number


In Mainland China, these requirements are also vital when publishing and releasing downloadable software in an online marketplace or app store.

This policy came about last year, obliging all existing mobile app publishers to apply for ICP permits on or before March 2024 and encouraging new developers to take note of the new regulation moving forward.

Undergoing the ICP license application process is also a way for China’s digital systems to verify or tag your website or content as a credible and reliable source of information. It’s an indication that your business is willing to comply with the requirements of Chinese law.


3 Types of ICP Registration in China

1.    ICP Filing Application (ICP备案)

ICP Filing is a mandatory requirement for hosting local websites or launching apps and mini-programs in China, regardless of whether you’re a non-Chinese entity or not.

Commonly known as ICP Beian or ICP Recordal, these requirements are strictly enforced by the Chinese Ministry of Industry and Information Technology. They apply to non-commercial websites and are managed on a provincial basis for each domain.

A unique non-commercial ICP Filing is necessary for each domain, especially if the brand has multiple websites. With this license, a business can publish purely informational content, but the entity cannot engage in sales or services or generate revenue.

When you see an ICP number, you’ll notice it includes a unique alpha-numeric format like ICP87654321. These registrations are also maintained in an online database, so expect no physical certificate after the approval.


Bei An ICP filing database record

Example of Bei’An online database record for non-commercial ICP Filings


2.    ICP Commercial License (ICP许可证)

A Commercial ICP License is essential for companies that aim to operate revenue-generating websites, platforms, or software in Mainland China. It’s often referred to as “ICP Zheng” or “B25 Commercial ICP License” and is categorized under the VATS licensing system.

Based on Chinese regulations, an ICP commercial license is granted on a per-company registration. However, before tackling this process, remember that you still need to submit an ICP filing for every domain you use for your business.


You’ll need an ICP commercial license if you intend to utilize or launch:

  • Commercial websites and apps offering in-app payments or advertising
  • Online marketplaces and online games
  • Live streaming services (additional permits may be required)
  • Various other digital services, including mapping, discount platforms, and content libraries


ICP Commercial license

Source: AppInChina


3.    Individual ICP Certification (ICP个人备案)

Individuals are eligible to register for ICP Filing despite specific limitations. For example, according to MIIT regulations, websites with an Individual ICP cannot host forums where online consumers and brands can directly engage in real-time.

Sites that provide information related to businesses or industries are also not permitted to use this type of ICP registration.


China ICP License Requirements

  • For Individual ICP Filing

Native individuals requesting ICP filing will only need an ID card and the completed application form. Meanwhile, foreign individuals must provide their passport details and the requirements demanded by the region or province processing their application.

These prerequisites may vary, but some will oblige foreign applicants to provide domestic phone numbers, Chinese bank account details, and an official local address.


  • For Companies (Chinese-owned Businesses, Wholly Foreign-Owned Enterprises (WFOE), and Sino-foreign joint ventures)

A company in these categories must present its Chinese business license. It also needs a registered capital of at least 1 million RMB for province-based businesses and 10 million RMB for cross-province enterprises.

To be considered for ICP licenses, you could be asked to submit details of the company’s physical or virtual offices (local agents) within the Chinese market. The application should also include technical information about your hosting provider and network security.



How to obtain an ICP License for your business in China

●     ICP Filing Guidelines

1.    Fill out the ICP application form

Brands need to complete an application form to begin the ICP filing process. In this document, they must indicate information about their local business licenses and basic company information, such as the office address and contact numbers.

Before pushing through the ICP filing process, we recommend finding local hosting services and purchasing a plan.

This step is vital because the application process will require you to provide several details about the website you intend to host. It includes the domain name, homepage, and the type and content your site will release.


2.    Legal Representative & Local Hosting Provider

The company must provide comprehensive details about its legal representatives and the webmaster based in China.

It’s necessary to submit a photograph of the legal representative or webmaster, taken against a backdrop that includes the hosting provider’s office and logo.


3.    Ensure that you have a Domain Certificate

The domain name listed in the ICP filing must be supported by a web certificate. Unlike a Mainland Chinese server, domain registrars outside China may not issue such documents.

Because of this, the company must send a request or work with the overseas registrar to secure the necessary domain certificate for the ICP filing.

They must also submit WHOIS information to the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology (MIIT). If the domain is registered through a Chinese registrar, it should also be associated with a domestic entity.


How long does it take to get an approved ICP filing?

The verification for ICP filing may take up to four weeks or more. If you want express services, your best option is to work with highly reputable and experienced agencies.




●     Commercial ICP License Guidelines

It’s important to note that you still need to undergo the initial ICP filing process before you can obtain this commercial license. Here are the next steps that should follow:


1.    Submission of Requirements

The required documents for a commercial ICP license are initially evaluated by the web hosting provider. Based on this initial review, the provider may request additional documents if necessary.

Once the documents are confirmed and validated, the web hosting provider will forward them to the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology (MIIT) for further processing and subsequent actions.


2.    Application Review

After submission, the MIIT conducts a thorough review of the application. The applicant receives notification of the review outcome via SMS to a registered Chinese mobile number and email.

If the application is rejected, the MIIT notifies the hosting provider. So, you’ll likely receive the notification from your web hosting service. As an applicant, this usually means that you need to provide further documents for resubmission.


3.    PSB ICP Filing

The final step involves applying for a Public Security Bureau (PSB) filing within 30 days after you obtain an ICP license. This filing ensures that the applicant is not engaged in any unlawful activities.

Applications for PSB filings must be submitted through the official government website and completed in Mandarin Chinese.


How long does it take to get commercial ICP licenses?

Typically, it takes 20 days to receive the commercial ICP license after all required documents are submitted to the hosting provider. However, like ICP filing, it depends on the jurisdiction you’re applying for.


Who are qualified to apply for an ICP Permit in China?

By now, it’s a no-brainer that you need an ICP license to operate worry-free and conduct business digitally in China. However, the question remains: are you or your company qualified enough to go through this licensing system? Here’s a list to give you an idea:


  • Chinese nationals with government-issued IDs
  • A wholly foreign-owned enterprise (as long as they have a Chinese business license)
  • Sino foreign Joint ventures, with 50% of shares belonging to Chinese-owned businesses
  • Businesses purely owned and operated by Chinese nationals
  • Foreign individuals with passports (as long as they’re physically in the country for a specific duration and have primary registration documents ready)


Advantages of having an ICP license in China

●     Legal Compliance and Market Access

The primary advantage of securing an ICP license is that it authorizes the legal operation of your website on the Chinese mainland.

This compliance is not merely a formality but a requirement enforced by the local government to regulate internet content and ensure that all content consumed by Chinese users is in line with the country’s laws and regulations.


China hosting


●     Improved Website Performance

Hosting a website on servers located in China dramatically improves loading speeds for local users. An ICP license is a prerequisite for local hosting, which can significantly enhance user experience due to reduced latency.

As you know, faster website performance improves user satisfaction and can help boost conversion rates.


●     Access to the Chinese Digital Market

An ICP license allows businesses to actively engage in China’s digital space, including advertising on prominent Chinese search engines, e-commerce channels, and social media platforms.

Hosting your website locally with an ICP license significantly boosts your presence on Chinese search engines like Baidu. These platforms often favor websites with optimized content for local audiences and demonstrate superior page loading speeds.

As a result, your site is more likely to appear higher in search results, increasing your brand’s visibility and driving more traffic to your website.


China social media and social commerce landscape


●     Access to Local Services

An ICP license is often necessary for e-commerce businesses, particularly for those seeking to incorporate local payment systems into their digital marketing strategies.

Access to these e-wallet features is crucial for doing business in Mainland China, primarily because cashless payment methods like Alipay and WeChat Pay dominate 64% of the market.


WeChat pay & Alipay


How much does it cost to get an ICP for your business in China?

The Ministry of Industry and Information does not charge a dime for the application of ICP FIling or License. However, a business might incur costs when availing of web hosting services or working with agencies during this process.


Quick Q&A

Who needs an ICP in China?

An online business that intends to advertise and sell to Chinese consumers via digital channels needs to obtain an ICP license. Websites that publish news, articles, and general information that reaches a broad audience also need to secure this requirement.

Can you run a localized website in China without an ICP License?

Operating a website within Mainland China requires an ICP License—there are no exceptions to this rule. Not abiding by these Chinese laws can result in consequences like fines, the forced closure of the website, or other legal repercussions.


Your Trusted Digital Marketing Partner in the Chinese Market!

Acquiring an ICP license is an integral part of website localization in China. For brands that intend to operate within China’s digital landscape in the long run, it’s an investment that opens many marketing and advertising opportunities.


You may want to read:

Website localization China


At Sekkei Digital Group, our team is ready to help you acquire an ICP permit. We have extensive industry experience in handling the intricacies of this procedure and developing a strategy for a successful market entry in Mainland China.


Sekkei Digital Group Services


Whether it’s launching a localized website or applying for an ICP license, we have the digital solutions you need. Contact us today, and let us help you dominate China’s thriving business landscape!


contact us SDG



How to Apply ICP License for a Website in China
How Can I Get an ICP Filing or Commercial ICP License for China?
What Is the China ICP License and How to Get One
How to Get the ICP License in China

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