Every website hosted (proxy) on a local server needs a special license when it goes online. If your website does not have an ICP Beian license, your hosting provider will not allow your website to be accessible. Websites that are hosted outside of mainland China do not require an ICP Beian License. In fact, you cannot obtain one as a foreign entity. The ICP Beian License is basically a must-have permit for your Chinese website. Hosting your website on a mainland Chinese server and not having an ICP license is illegal and it will be rendered inaccessible by your hosting provider. ICP Beian is mandatory because it is the tool used to identify content owners when violations of Chinese law occur on the mainland. MIIT relies on your hosting provider to be responsible for the legitimacy of your website content. If your website goes online without the ICP Beian license, they will suffer the consequences. The ICP Beian license number is usually found at the bottom of websites and it looks like 京ICP备137715号. The Internet Content Provider (ICP) license is a permit issued by the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology (MIIT) in China. MIIT has a branch in every province of China. Depending on where you entity is situated in China, that is the MIIT branch responsible for the issuance of your ICP Beian license application. For instance, if your wholly-owned foreign enterprise or joint venture (JV) is incorporated in Shanghai, your ICP Beian License application must be submitted to the MIIT Shanghai branch for approval by your hosting provider on your behalf. Assuming you have a local entity in China, your ICP Beian application will be handled by your hosting provider, on your behalf. Some hosting providers offer the service free of charge, while some will charge you a nominal fee. The time frame for an ICP Beian application to be issued is usually around 20 business days. These are the required documents you should submit to your hosting provider:
- Legal Representative Information and ID/Passport Scan
- Webmaster Information and ID Scan (Chinese Contact)
- Company Business License Scan
- ICP Beian Application
- Photo of Legal Representative or Webmaster (taken in front of a poster from your hosting provider)
- Domain Certificate or WHOIS information
- ICP Beian Application Form
There is a lot of confusion regarding the ICP Beian License (ICP备案) and the Commercial ICP License (ICP经营许可证). A lot of online articles present both types of licenses as being the same. In actuality, they are governed by a different set of criteria and requirements. There are basically two types of ICP Licenses
- The ICP Beian License (ICP备案)
- The Commercial ICP License (ICP经营许可证).
The ICP Beian License is needed for all types of websites. If your website has “commercial” activities, you will be required to also get a valid Commercial ICP License. Commercial ICP License is only opened to local Chinese corporations. In some cases, they are available for joint-ventures, where the foreign equity is not more than 50%. The local Chinese corporation must have a minimum registered capital of 1 million RMB. If you do not have a local Chinese corporation, it would be best advised to partner with a local Chinese corporation that could apply for a Commercial ICP License. Each MIIT branch has its own regulations. Thus, it is possible there are subtle differences in the requirements of the ICP Beian. Requirements are changing a lot in this field. Often, information applicable a month ago might not be relevant today. A foreign company would benefit immensely from choosing a Chinese server or proxy (CDN) for their website. A fast-loading website is more appealing to your customers and partners. Thus, the effort of obtaining all the required licenses is one worth making.