What is the ICP Permit in China and How to Obtain It

China boasts one of the world's largest markets for online consumers, yet it remains untapped by numerous international businesses due to the complexities involved in securing an Internet Content Provider (ICP) permit. This article comprehensively explains the ICP permit for companies interested in pursuing internet-based operations in China.

by | May 23, 2023 | Legal

ICP, or Internet Content Provider, is a term used in China’s internet governance framework. Given China’s strict oversight over websites, games, apps, and e-commerce platforms within its boundaries, any entity wishing to provide internet content or conduct online business must first secure appropriate licenses from the Chinese Ministry of Industry and Information Technology (MIIT).

What are the different types of ICP permits?


There are two types of ICP permits available in China. Depending on your application, game, or platform, your business may require one or both of these licenses.


1. ICP Filing (ICP Bei’an) 

For non-commercial websites (those primarily informational and not engaged in the selling of goods or services), an ICP filing is the only requirement. As generating revenue with an ICP Filing isn’t permissible, if your site’s objective is to generate income, you will need to obtain an ICP License instead.

ICP Filing guidelines were established in 2005 in Administrative Measures For the Filing of Not-For-Profit Internet Information Services.


2. ICP License (ICP Zheng) 

A requisite for commercial websites, platforms, or software in China involved direct online sales or transactional services such as payment gateways or online data and transaction processing.

An ICP License is granted per company. This means that once a company obtains an ICP License, it can operate multiple websites or platforms for commercial purposes within China.

An ICP License is issued on a per-company basis. However, each top-level domain used by the company still requires an ICP Filing. 

ICP Licenses are required for:

    • any commercial website (a website that is not purely informational)
    • paid games or games that have in-app payments and/or in-app advertising
    • apps that have in-app payments and/or in-app advertising
    • SaaS platforms
    • app stores or game stores
    • online marketplace for goods, services or information
    • online games
    • live streaming platforms (although an additional, separate license is also required for this as well)
    • community platform services (a platform for question and answer, social sharing or communication)
    • real-time interactive services (platorms with real-time communication, interactive voice IVR, and video call functions)
    • information protection and processing services (mobile assistants, anti-virus software)
    • shrinking query services (which are not included in browser, with content retrieval in app)
    • information release and express services (maps, discount networks, libraries, life service and information browsing webpages)

What are the benefits of obtaining ICP permits?

– Hosting your website in China ensures quicker loading times;

– You become eligible to use the “.cn” and “.com.cn” domain names, which enhances SEO and boosts your website’s credibility among Chinese users;

– Baidu, the leading search engine in China, does seem to favor websites hosted within the country, enhancing local SEO performance;

– By hosting your website within China, you may gain a competitive advantage over competitors who host their websites outside of the country, given the potential for faster load times and improved visibility on Chinese search engines.


Frequently Asked Questions About ICP Permits


Q: Who is eligible for an ICP Filing?

  • The entity or individual applying for the ICP license must be based in China. Foreign entities or individuals typically need to form a joint venture with a local Chinese company or set up a wholly foreign-owned enterprise (WFOE) in China to meet this requirement.


Q: Who can get an ICP License (Commercial)?

  • Chinese-owned businesses with a Chinese business license.
  • Sino-foreign joint ventures where the proportion of foreign investment does not exceed 50%.


Q: Is it possible for a foreign company to obtain an ICP permit in China?

Foreign companies without a Chinese entity are not qualified to obtain an ICP permit. 


Q: What is the process for a foreign company to obtain an ICP permit to launch an app or game in China?

The procedure to secure an ICP license entails several steps, including domain registration, web hosting, and submitting an application via the MIIT’s website. However, this process can be time-consuming and often demands a multitude of documents. As such, foreign companies typically opt to partner with Chinese internet companies to launch their platforms, utilizing the licenses already held by their Chinese counterparts.


This is where AppInChina can help. We help get you the licenses you need, and you will even be able to avoid some licensing requirements entirely due to our partnership agreement. Our wide range of services and expertise allows you to publish and operate worry-free in China, knowing that you are in full legal compliance with all Chinese laws.


(The primary content above comes from <The China Market Entry Handbook>, which is soon to be released by the Integra Group. Author is AppInChina)


Integra Group is poised to assist clients in navigating the complex landscape of ICP filing in China. Armed with extensive expertise in the field, Integra Group utilizes a wide array of resources, in-depth knowledge, and a strong, established network of partners to guide clients effectively. Contact us today if you’re ready to tap into the potential of the Chinese online market.

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