How Can I Get an ICP License for my eCommerce platform, app, or game in China?
If you want to put anything online in China, chances are good you will need an ICP license. You will definitely need it for a website. But you may need an ICP license for publishing or distributing an app or game in China, depending on the nature of your app or game.
What is an ICP license?
ICP stands for Internet Content Provider (ICP). As China maintains strict control over websites, games, apps, and e-commerce within its borders, any “internet content provider” must first gain a license to be able to do most business online or even to post information.
There are two types of ICP licenses available. Depending on your app, game, or platform, your enterprise may require one or both:
ICP Beian (ICP备案) – This is the standard ICP license required to host a website in China. It is issued by the Chinese Ministry of Industry and Information Technology and administered at at the provincial level. For sites that are purely informational and not involved in selling goods or services, this is the only ICP required. The numbers follow the format 京ICP备12345678号
ICP Commercial – This ICP license gives its holder the legal ability to accept payments online, but it generally applies to online stores that sell services or physical goods. It can also apply to games or apps that collect in-app payments, but not in all circumstances. These numbers follow the format 京ICP证12345678号 .
Websites that do not have an ICP record cannot be accessed in Mainland China. You can see the ICP license numbers for any Chinese website at the bottom of the front webpage, where they are required to be displayed:
I need an ICP license for China. How can I get one?
Your website, app or game does not need to go live prior to applying for the license, but you will need to first obtain a local hosting provider, to whom you will submit the required documentation (these can vary from province to province):
- Certificate of the person making the application (generally the individual’s Chinese ID card)
- Certificate of the website administrator
- Certificate of the organization (business license or other such document to verify the business, if applying on behalf of an organization)
- Photo of yourself holding the required documents
- Letter of authorization
- Residence Permit
- Domain name holder certificate
- Domain name confirmation (Beijing)
- Commitment letter and website construction plan (Guangdong)
- Certificate of Authorization (Yunnan, Inner Mongolia, Heilongjiang, Jiangxi)
If the documents are approved, they are then forwarded to the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology for further review. Applicants who are rejected for any reason will be contacted and asked to submit additional information. Assuming all documentation is in order, it takes an average of 20 business days for a company to finally receive its ICP license.
The ICP system follows a “one account, one owner” rule. This means that if you own multiple websites, you can file for all of them from a single account, as long as you are the listed owner listed for all the domain names you will register. For sites with different owners, you’ll need one account per owner.
All steps can be completed online, but you will need the assistance of a Chinese speaker, as no English forms are available.
Who can get an ICP license?
- Chinese-owned businesses with a Chinese business license.
- Partially or wholly foreign-owned (WOFE) businesses with any type of Chinese business license. For Sino-foreign joint ventures, the proportion of foreign investment cannot exceed 50%, and you will only be able to receive an ICP Beian – not a commercial ICP. Also, foreign companies need to apply for a “Foreign (Regional) Enterprises Resident Representative Registration Certificate” (外国（地区）企业常驻机构代表登记证) before filing.
- Chinese nationals can receive an Individual ICP (个人备案) using their state-issued ID.
- Non-Chinese individuals who are physically present in China long enough to fulfill some basic registration requirements can apply for an Individual ICP with their passport.
It is important to understand that foreign companies are not eligible to receive either ICP license. It is not enough to have an office in China: You must be a registered Chinese business.
So how can a foreign company run eCommerce or publish an app or game in China?
Foreign entities usually partner with Chinese internet companies and app distributors to use the licenses of the Chinese company. This is essential for publishing foreign games in China anyway, since foreign companies also cannot be issued a game license.
This is where AppInChina can help. As a Wholly Foreign Owned Entity (WFOE), we are a Chinese company that can apply for these licenses on behalf of our clients. This is part of our range of services that ensures you can operate worry-free in China, knowing that you are in full legal compliance with all Chinese laws.
Your company will simply sign a partnership agreement with us and we will help run your eCommerce platform, game and/or app. When you sign up for AppInChina’s services, you always retain the right to your own content and complete control of your own operations, while at the same time taking advantage of our company status and many years of expertise in the Chinese market. You retain full control and copyright over your app, game or platform through your contract with us.