ICP China license: What Do You Need to Know

Up until recently, obtaining an Internet Content Provider (ICP) filing or licence was the only way to guarantee fast loading speed in mainland China as it allows you to host your website in China. In this article we dive deep into the key features of ICP China License, as well as the new solution we provide for a fast load time in China.

ICP Licenses - or the long way to fast load time in China

There are two types of ICP requirements in the Chinese regulations: one is the ICP license and the other is an ICP filing. The type of ICP you need to apply for depends on what type of business or service you plan to provide in China. If you are creating a profit-making website that will operate in China, you need to have an ICP license; however, if your website is one which will not generate profits (for example, a simple content based website), an ICP filing is all that you require.

Location is Key - Fast and Functional

Whilst an overseas website (hosted outside of China) may be able to be browsed or transacted in China, the risk of having your website blocked or restricted is high and you run the risk of not being able to rectify the problem as your site will not be a recognized site by the Chinese government. The rule of thumb is that, whenever there are big events, grand government meetings or nationwide celebrations, the Great Firewall tightens restrictions on websites hosted outside of China. These restrictions see the loading speed of these websites slow considerably (or even stop altogether), even if the website is free of prohibited content.

Hosting your Chinese website in China with local servers will see you benefit from the smoother loading of your site each and every time someone clicks onto your site, giving you a long-term and sustainable competitive advantage over your international competitors in China - particularly when you move earlier or faster than them on this area.

Impact of ICP on Baidu Search

Do you need an ICP if using Baidu PPC (Pay Per Click) advertising? This is a common question for companies looking at marketing in China. However, the answer is not always a clear one.

The real answer is: the people at Baidu are not the ones enforcing licenses or requiring an ICP filing. In other words, if you don’t have an ICP, you can still open an account in Baidu and work with the search engine on Pay Per Click advertising. However, you will work with them as an overseas account via an overseas channel team.

Whether or not you have an ICP does have some impact on your Baidu SEO. Websites without a license or filing will have lower ratings and exposure in Baidu non-paid search results.

Apply for ICP

The process is not as simple as sending off an email or filling out a short form; however, we’ve done our best to simplify the process for you. There are also many third-party agents available to help you in the application process but they will charge a service fee. Generally speaking the fee for this service is reasonably priced and well worth the investment considering the long term advantages and the frequency of requirement changes.

ICP License vs. ICP Filling

A general rule is: you need to have an ICP license if you are creating a profit-making website hosted in China; if your website is not one which is generating profits (for example, a simple content based website), an ICP filing is all that you require.

If for some reason, you are unable to host your website locally, the least you need to do is get an ICP filing to allow your website to be officially recognized by the Chinese government.

There are also some grey areas of policy that have been taken advantage of by wholly foreign owned companies in China. These companies have profitable websites operating in the region; however, they do not have licenses (only ICP filings). The loophole here is their location. These WFOE businesses are located in Shanghai but the transactions/payments on their site are made through servers that are located overseas. Because of this, the companies claim that the China website is simply to support their sales whilst actual sales are conducted either offline or outside of China. Any company looking to conduct their business in this way needs to consult their own legal advisors and consider the risks associated.

Applying for an ICP License

Before you consider applying for a license, it’s important to ask a few key questions:

Does your legal entity in China meet the below criteria?

  • Only domestic companies or joint ventures (JVs) with domestic stakes of no less than 50% can apply for a licence. The only exception to this is WFOE (wholly foreign owned enterprise) eCommerce companies in Shanghai – these companies can apply for a licence if the legal entity is registered in the free trade pilot zone.
  • Registration capital of the legal entity must be at least RMB 1 million

Where is your website hosted?

Within China. Because it is only required for ICP if your website is hosted within Mainland China and is a profit-making website.

Do you have the required documents?
In order to file for a license, you will need to have:

  • A copy of the Business License of your company’s Chinese legal entity
  • An ID card copy of the contact person for your site (who must be a Chinese national)
  • Photo ID of the business owner (who can be a foreign national)
  • Signed ICP application forms, including information on your official company name, registered address, contact person’s details, website information and any necessary documentation required in the application.
  • Proof that you have the capital and expertise needed to develop your business activities
  • Proof of credibility and capability to provide long-term service to customers
  • A strong business development plan and the related technical solutions
  • Proof of website and information on security measures used on your site (for example, information encryption, user information management policy, etc.)
  • A full debrief of your company
  • Recent financial reports audited by audit/accounting firms or a capital check report
  • Information about your company’s policy, ownership, shareholder structure and information about the relevant shareholders
  • Approval of the business and industry scope from related government authorities if the internet information service to be provided is in the news, publishing, education, medical or medical instruction industries

Once you have completed your application, gathered all of the relevant documentation, and had it signed by a legal representative of your company, you can then scan and send off your application for approval through the hosting company you are using. Please note that your forms MUST be completed in Chinese.

Applying for an ICP Filing

Before you consider applying for an ICP filing, you will need to ensure that you have:

  • A copy of the Business License of your company’s Chinese legal entity
  • An ID card copy and photo ID of the person in charge of your website
  • A photo of the person in charge of your website taken and collected by the service provider of your site access server when they process your filing request
  • Information about the structure of your company’s board
  • ID documents of the legal representative of your company
  • A copy of the certificate of independent domain name registration
  • Official permission from related government authorities if your website falls under the news, publishing, education, medical, culture, radio broadcasting, movie or TV industries

Also make sure you have the following information at hand in order to fill in the application form: domain name/IP address of the home page, the method of site access (virtual access/renting servers/purchasing servers), provider of the site access servers, server location, a list of all the domain names, a list of all relevant IP addresses.

Once you have completed your application, you can then scan and send off your application for approval through your web hosting company.

Please Remember: Whilst we have done our best to help you understand ICP China requirements and to simplify the ICP process for you, this post is solely for informative purposes and shouldn’t be taken as legal advice from the author or Sinorbis.

Sinorbis - a new solution for a fast load time in China

For a long time, businesses who didn’t already have a Chinese legal entity had to rely on the expertise of Chinese digital agencies to create and manage a website that can be accessed behind the Great Firewall. Unfortunately, for SMEs this often meant that owning a website designed to attract, engage with and sell to Chinese digital consumers simply wasn’t a financially viable proposition. Or if they could afford it, a lack of transparency and language barriers meant that they didn’t feel that were in complete control of their brand.

Sinorbis is the first integrated digital marketing platform that has been designed for Western businesses looking to market to Chinese online consumers. Our hosting environment and coding have been optimised to guarantee fast website load time in mainland China without the need for an ICP filing.

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