What Is ICP License (ICP 备案)?

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What is ICP license? Does your business need it? How can you obtain it without going mad? Find answers to these and some other questions below.

So, what is ICP license (ICP 备案)?
ICP license is a permission to host your website in China issued by the PRC Ministry of Industry and Information. Without this license, no one official Chinese hosting company would allow you to host your website at its servers. Usually, an ICP license number looks like “京 ICP 备 04000001 号” and is placed at the bottom of the site.

Что такое ICP лицензия (ICP 备案)? - 1 Example of ICP license on a Chinese website

Do you need ICP license?

Not necessarily. ICP license is reliable but not the only way to increase your website loading speed in China. A lot of sites aimed at Chinese users are hosted in Hong Kong and loaded as fast as sites hosted in mainland China. However, it should be noted that Hong Kong hosting may be not sufficient for heavy sites.

Can you register ICP license?

Currently, ICP license can be registered by the companies registered in mainland China or Chinese citizens with valid identity document.

What types of ICP license exist?

Companies owned by Chinese citizens with a Chinese business license can submit an application for an ICP business license, which can be either commercial (ICP商务许可证) or standard (ICP 备案). It can also be obtained by partially or completely foreign companies with any type of Chinese business license, for example, joint ventures or WOFEs. Chinese citizens can submit an application for an individual ICP (个人备案) license with the use of their identity document. Foreign citizens, who are allowed to stay in China long enough to fulfill some basic registration requirements, can also submit an application to obtain an individual ICP license with the use of their passport as an identity document.

Commercial ICP or e-commerce ICP (商务许可证) is one more ICP type only for companies running their business in the Internet. In other words, if your business is run mostly or completely in the Internet, if you are not going offline, and, especially, if you are going to run online shopping or accept online payments in China, this license is optimal for you. But there is a significant disadvantage. It can be obtained only by Chinese owned companies with a Chinese business license. In theory, joint ventures with foreign share less than 50% can also apply for this license according to the law. But in practice, according to several Chinese agencies, commercial ICPs are rarely issued to companies with any foreign share.

Что такое ICP лицензия (ICP 备案)? - 2 Example of the ICP license on a Chinese website

Will my site be blocked in case I host it outside China and without an ICP license?

No :)

What about Baidu PPC?

Good news: Baidu PPC is still working with websites hosted outside mainland China. No ICP license is needed for that.

Summary

Registration of an ICP license is not necessary but preferable, especially when your website loads slowly. Alternative option is, for example, Hong Kong hosting. There are three types of ICP license: business, individual and e-commerce, but only the first one is suitable for foreign companies.

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