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Why do I need an ICP licence?

As we often get asked why people need to register an ICP licence, as well as whats required. I thought it would be a good idea to explain what it is, and why its needed.

Essentially, an ICP licence is a permit from the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology (MII) in order to have a website in China.
In Chinese this licence is called a Bei An (ICP备案).

This was made law way back in September 2000, but not enforced until the late parts of this decade – 2007 onwards.
The latest documentation about this, and other requirements (in Chinese) is over here – http://www.miibeian.gov.cn/chaxun/flfg1.jsp?id=12

It is mandatory for any websites hosted in China to have an ICP licence, under penalty of law.
This applies whether the site is a .com, or a .cn or any other kind of domain name.

How do you apply for an ICP licence?

Website ICP licences are applied for at the MII website ( http://www.miibeian.gov.cn ), as this is all in Chinese, we typically assist clients with this process.

What do I need to apply for an ICP licence?

The official requirements are below:

Name of the website owner
Ownership information – ( Is the site is owned by an individual or a company? )
Valid identification documents (e.g., passport, ID card, etc)
Passport ID or Identification ID

Name of website investor
Your Location (in China)
Address (in China)
Operation type

Contact Person
Types of valid identification documents of the contact Person (e.g., passport or ID card, etc)
Passport ID or other Identification ID of the contact person
Office Phone (in China)
Mobile Phone (in China)
Email:

Name of the website
Home page of the website
Domain name of the site
What type of site it is (e.g., blog, forum, etc.)
What is the content of the site?

Although foreigners should be able to apply for an ICP licence, in practice that’s not possible (we haven’t been able to successfully have an ICP licence issued for a foreigner for at least a year).
Effectively this limits us to the following two requirements (we can fill in the rest for you):

Legal Chinese Company Licence Number
Company Name (in Chinese and English)

or

Chinese Name
ID number.

Note that while companies are able to register multiple websites, individuals are only permitted to register a single site.

Where do I put the licence?
The excerpt from the official wording reads as follows: 并在取得经营许可证或备案号后 3 天内放在网站主页下方显著位置.
This basically says that the licence must be placed on the website within 3 days of receiving the licence, and must be placed on the home page at the bottom of the page.

Note that we do check clients sites on a semi regular basis for this, so if you redesign your site and forget to put the ICP licence in, you may find your site closed until this is done.

How long does it take?
Typically licence application takes less than two weeks. We have seen licenses issued in as little as a day though, through to taking 2-3 months!
This all depends on when you apply, and what kind of business you are doing in China.

We recommend that you avoid leaving things until the Chinese Holidays if things are urgent, as the relevant departments are usually understaffed, and about to go on vacation.
In a worst case scenario, we can host sites oversea’s until the licence is issued.

The licence department will ask us to close down acccess to the site when they perform the check though.

We recommend that licenses are applied for well ahead of time, so that you don’t have any downtime.

What does it cost?
Applying for an ICP licence is free. If you are one of our clients, we perform licence application as part of our service.
If you aren’t one of our clients, then why not become one!

What kind of sites can get licenses? / What can we host?
Any site that does not contravene China law can get a license. We cannot assist you with hosting anything that is illegal in China!

China law prohibits the following kinds of websites:

  • Pornographic or promoting immoral behaviour.
  • Sites offensive to the Chinese government or people.
  • Sites that sell online drugs or satellite equipment
  • Sites that promote banned activities or organizations.

Note that certain kinds of content do require additional licensing, in addition to an ICP licence.

An example would be BBS (Forums).
If you require a forum, we recommend that the forum is hosted outside of China until a license can be issued.

Note that BBS licensing requires additional fee’s and documentation due to the amount of work involved.