Promising untapped markets are emerging all over China. As companies race to break into the new business climate, ICP Licensing is in growing demand. With rules and regulations constantly changing, and an overwhelming amount of Chinese paperwork, the registration process can get confusing. Nevertheless, completing this step is a fundamental part of your successful game plan, and we’re here to help.
In this article, we’ve taken Incorp China’s 30+ years of professional ICP license registration experience and created an all-you-need-to-know-guide on how to properly establish a competitive web presence in any mainland region.
Beware: This is a fragile and crucial part of your company’s success. The process is not to be taken lightly, although there are certain service providers out there who treat it so in order to make a quick buck or yuan. Pay attention to the points provided and we will teach you how to do it right.
As in all Chinese business, cultivating strong relationships is step one. Registering your license involves proving to the government that your intentions are pure, that your site is worthy of hosting, and that you can operate within the boundaries of Chinese law.
No book or website can fully prepare you for this process. Sure you can google a nice flowchart, but the business culture in the east is rooted in a social system more delicate than any western country.
Certain steps absolutely require a Chinese contact. For example, certain user registrations require an input on SMS verification codes which only send to China-based numbers. Furthermore, not all registration sites accept international payment methods.
As your documents are filled out and translated from region to region, a trusted cultural insider will quickly become your most valuable research tool.
See why Incorp China is the right relationship for you here.
Now, let’s get specific…
An ICP (Internet Content Provider) License is a permit, applicable to legally registered companies, issued by the MIIT (Chinese Ministry of Industry and Information Technology) that permits websites to operate in China. It is a key piece in your site going live, one between purchasing a hosting and creating your domain.
If your goal is to launch a website using a server hosted in China or on a Chinese content delivery network, an ICP License is mandatory.
However, say you are a US company hosting your website in America. The Chinese consumer is merely a fraction of your target market. Is it possible for your website to function, for Chinese consumers to view your content without an ICP License?
The answer is yes, but anticipate firewall blockage and don’t expect a fast-loading website.
Note: In Hong Kong, thanks to a more western style set of laws, entering the online playing field can be a smoother process.
Learn more about the benefits of opening your company in Hong Kong here.
There are two types:
1. Commercial License
A commercial license is for companies offering goods or services to customers chiefly online. Its parameters are strict and swift:
• Commercial ICPs are almost never issued to companies with any foreign investment.
• Therefore, you must be a completely Chinese-owned business.
2. Bei An (Filing) License
The ICP Bei An license is the standard license, available to foreign-owned entities: Representative Offices (RO), Joint Ventures (JV), or Wholly Foreign Owned Enterprises (WOFE). All mainland China hosted sites must obtain one before they begin any business online.
Given that our company assists non-Chinese businesses in entering the market, this is the license we will focus on.
Within the category of Bei An licenses, there are two ways to go:
A. Proxy Process
This is the only option for companies that do not have a physical entity present in the country. It allows you to nominate a locally-registered Chinese company to hold the domain for you as a proxy.
With this plan, you take on additional risk. Because you are linked with entities other than your own, if the proxy becomes blocked for any reason, it’s game over for everyone with no way back in.
B. Direct Process
This plan ensures the highest possible control over your site. The process is slightly longer, but ultimately worth it for companies serious about their Chinese presence.
When a client needs this license, here’s what happens in flow chat form followed by a more clear explanation:
• We translate and submit the required documents to your web provider
– In review, additional documents may be required
– When approved, your provider sends the documents to MIIT
• MIIT reviews your ICP license application documents
– When approved, we will be notified via our Chinese phone number
– Within twenty days, you will have received a registration number
• We apply for a PSB (Public Security Bureau) ICP Filing
– We have thirty days to apply after receiving the number
– Once again, the documents must be submitted in Chinese
• We submit the documents to start accessing China-based web services
– With the license, you can now purchase hosting and CDN services
– Finally, you are able to register for a .cn domain
Note: Failure to keep the information you submitted to MIIT up-to-date can result in fines or complete cancellation of your ICP license.
Once your site is up and running, the license numbers will be displayed in the website footer. Check out this example:
At this point, local competition knows you are serious about your sales and ready to compete. Your fast-loading website will keep customers around and partners engaged, and all the paperwork will be worth it.
Ready to get started? Call now for a consultation with an IncorpChina team member, and establish your most important relationship in China success. +1 561 729 6508 | firstname.lastname@example.org
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