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Demystifying ICP, ICP Filing, and ICP License: Essential for Entering the Chinese Market Online

Whether you operate a corporate website, an e-commerce platform, or any other type of website, if you want your site to be accessible to users in mainland China, understanding ICP, ICP Filing, and ICP License is crucial. This is especially true for businesses aiming to successfully tap into the Chinese market. In mainland China, website operators must undergo ICP Filing and obtain an ICP License to legally run their websites.This article will provide a comprehensive explanation of who needs to apply for ICP Filing, as well as the eligibility criteria and application process.

What are ICP, ICP Filing, and ICP License?

Looking to successfully operate a website in the Chinese market? Then you must first understand the significance of ICP, ICP Filing, and ICP License! In mainland China, website operators are required to undergo ICP Filing to legally operate their websites and obtain an ICP License. The following text will explain the meanings of these three concepts.
ICP ICP stands for "Internet Content Provider." In simple terms, it refers to Internet service providers who operate under China's internet regulatory framework. Every website involved in internet-related activities must go through ICP Filing to obtain permission and certification, allowing them to legally publish content. Depending on the nature of the website, ICP can be broadly categorized into two main types:
1、ICP Non-Commercial Website Filing Even non-profit, non-commercial websites such as those focusing on new media information, educational culture, healthcare, and medical content must apply for ICP Filing. Whether you intend to host a website on servers within China or deliver content through CDN nodes, both individuals and corporate applicants need approval from the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology (MIIT). Only after obtaining this recognition can website owners access their own sites in China.
2、ICP Commercial License For revenue-generating commercial websites, such as business platform sites that generate income for other users, or informational websites that earn revenue through commercial information or advertising, an ICP Commercial License from the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology of the People's Republic of China (MIIT) is required.
ICP Filing ICP Filing is essentially a permit issued by the Chinese Ministry of Industry and Information Technology (MIIT), allowing you to operate a website on servers located within mainland China. Whether you have a corporate website or an e-commerce platform, if you intend to run a website on servers in China, ICP Filing is mandatory. Only after obtaining this filing number can your website be accessed normally. Without this permit, providing online services would be considered illegal.ICP Filing is mainly required in three scenarios: hosting a website on servers located in mainland China, hosting a mobile application on servers in mainland China, and using CDN servers within mainland China. Whenever you host a website or application on servers in China, ICP Filing is necessary. Moreover, only websites that have completed ICP Filing can legally operate within mainland China.
ICP License The ICP License, or Internet Content Provider License, is a permit for operating websites in China. According to China's "Internet Management Measures," any profit-oriented website must obtain an ICP License to legally operate. After completing ICP Filing, non-commercial websites receive an ICP Filing number, while commercial websites require an additional ICP License, allowing them to engage in lawful business operations.

What are ICP, ICP Filing, and ICP License?

  • Any "website" intending to operate within mainland China must apply for ICP Filing beforehand. Websites that have not undergone the filing review are considered illegal and the entire webpage will be blocked, preventing successful page display. If your server is hosted within mainland China, ICP Filing is mandatory and must adhere to the following regulations:
    • Regulation 1: The server's location and access method must comply with the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology's specifications.
    • Regulation 2: Regarding the main information within the website, which pertains to the enterprise and operators, it must adhere to the review unit's specifications.

ICP Filing Eligibility

ICP Filing eligibility requirements are quite strict and may vary by province in China. Therefore, before applying for ICP Filing, it is recommended to consult with local authorities or professional technology companies for guidance and confirmation. The following are the key application criteria for ICP Filing:
Condition 1: Registered Company within Mainland China Enterprises must have a registered physical business entity within mainland China. Foreign nationals must also have a fixed residence within China to apply for a personal website.
Condition 2: Capital Requirements for Company Registration Registered capital must be above 1 million RMB. If an overseas enterprise is registered within China, foreign capital cannot hold over 50% of the company's shares.
Condition 3: Domain Name and Server Purchases within Mainland China ICP Filing is necessary for all servers and hosts within mainland China. Unless the server is hosted outside of mainland China, in regions like Hong Kong, Macau, or other non-Chinese countries, ICP Filing is not required, though the site may face interception by China's firewall. Note that if a website has multiple domain names, all must be included in the ICP Filing application. However, if a company has multiple websites, only one ICP License is needed.
Condition 4: Company Representative Operating within Mainland China ICP License demonstrates the legality of a company's commercial operations. The ICP License must be registered with the "Telecommunications Management Bureau" at the company's registered location. For instance, if a company is registered in Shanghai, the ICP License must be obtained from the Shanghai Telecommunications Management Bureau. If the company's location differs from the server's location, the ICP License must be obtained from the local bureau and ICP Filing from the server's location
Condition 5: Passing the Filing Review ICP Filing is challenging to pass due to scrutiny of the website's business nature for sensitivity, submission of annual review data, compliance, and truthfulness. The ICP License is valid for 5 years, subject to annual reviews. If you've had your ICP Filing revoked or ICP License suspended, you cannot reapply within three years.

6 Key Steps for ICP Filing Preparation

Due to the strict review by ICP Filing authorities, it typically takes 15-20 business days. It's advisable to allocate sufficient time for ICP Filing before your website goes live. The ICP Filing application process generally involves these 6 major steps:
Step 1: Prepare ICP Filing Documentation ICP Filing requires different documentation based on your identity, categorized as "Individual Entity" and "Corporate Organization" for data preparation.
For Individual Entity ICP Filing
  • In addition to providing basic identification documents, supplementary materials may be required based on local management bureau's specifications. These may include website domain certificates, personal identification photos, website construction plans, and temporary residence permits.
    • For Chinese nationals within mainland China: Prepare your ID card.
    • For Hong Kong and Macau residents: Provide your Hong Kong/Macau residence permit or the permit for traveling between mainland China and Hong Kong/Macau.
    • For Taiwan residents: Prepare your Taiwan ID card or a valid Mainland Travel Permit for Taiwan Residents.
    • For other countries: Provide your passport from your home country.
For Corporate Organization ICP Filing
  • In addition to the steps mentioned earlier for individual entities, corporate organizations need to prepare the following documents
    • Organizational Documents: Provide documents that verify the organization's legitimacy, including the credentials of the entity's legal representative, website's responsible person, business license, business registration, organizational code certificate, and other relevant proofs.
    • Identification Documents: Both the legal representative of the entity and the responsible person for the website need to submit relevant identification documents.
    • Additional Supporting Materials: Depending on local management bureau requirements, additional documents might be necessary, such as ICP Filing authorization letters, website domain certificates, organizational certificate photos, and website construction plans.
Step 2: Fill Out Information and Upload The information required for ICP filing is divided into two main categories: Subject Information and Responsible Person Information. Subject Information pertains to relevant details about the organizing entity, such as the geographical region it belongs to, nature of the entity, and identification numbers of the entity; while Responsible Person Information focuses on personal information of the responsible person, including their name, identification type, identification number, office telephone, etc.
Step 3: Conduct Authenticity Verification After completing the application steps for ICP filing mentioned above, the next step involves verifying the authenticity of identities and data. During the photo uploading process, facial recognition must be conducted simultaneously to complete the authenticity verification process.
Step 4: Initiate Initial Review Upon passing the initial review of the ICP filing, the subsequent steps include arranging for photography, mailing documents, and undergoing SMS verification. It's important to note that when capturing a photo of the website's responsible person, the background should adhere to the specified screen color. While applying for ICP filing in various provinces and cities, SMS verification through the "MIIT Filing Management System" is also required. Therefore, pay attention to notifications from the relevant system.Additionally, during the initial review, supplementary documents may be required to be mailed to specified locations based on additional requirements from local authorities. If you don't receive such notifications, there's no need to send documents via mail, and you can proceed directly to the next phase of the ICP filing process!
Step 5: Final Review by Regulatory Authority Following the completion of the initial review, the application for ICP filing will be forwarded to the corresponding regulatory authority for the final regulatory review. The review process usually takes 1 to 20 working days. It's recommended to allocate at least one month for this process.
Step 6: Successful Filing and Subsequent Procedures Once your ICP filing application passes the review, the entire filing process is considered complete! You can check the notification results on your mobile device and email. During the waiting period, you can also log into the system to track the progress of your filing. After the ICP filing is successful, you will receive a filing number. Please ensure to display this number at the bottom of your website and link it to the website of the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology.Additionally, during the initial review, supplementary documents may be required to be mailed to specified locations based on additional requirements from local authorities. If you don't receive such notifications, there's no need to send documents via mail, and you can proceed directly to the next phase of the ICP filing process!
Cloud Hosting Recommendation: Microud International Looking to establish a global website worry-free of firewall restrictions? Want to save on ICP filing costs? Microud offers unlimited bandwidth cloud hosting, a comprehensive solution for your China-based website. Through our legitimate corporate channel, Microud hosting can save you substantial costs and eliminate the complex manual ICP filing process.What's even better is that you can you can target both Chinese and international markets without hosting within mainland China. With CN2 GIA Direct high-speed routing, enjoy international connectivity without ICP filing hassles. Seamlessly operate international and Greater China business – no VPNs, no ICP filing, no geographic limits!

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