NBH Guide: What is an ICP filing in China?

May 8, 2024 |
Guides | Uncategorized

Companies that want to set up a website and host it on servers in Mainland China are required to apply for an ICP Filing (ICP备案) according to the demands of the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology (MIIT). The term “ICP Filing” is sometimes referred to as ICP Registration, ICP Beian, or ICP Recordal. Here, we will use the term “ICP Filing.”

China’s regulation of the internet is strict, and anyone involved in website construction, whether individuals or businesses, must register with the MIIT. This registration is part of MIIT’s efforts to maintain a healthy oversight of the internet.

Besides leveraging local social media, establishing a website in China can be an important part of your company’s online digital presence for the Chinese market.

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What is ICP

ICP stands for Internet Content Provider, which refers to telecom operators that provide internet information services and value-added services to users. An ICP is also a formally operated enterprise approved by national authorities, and protected under national laws.

What is ICP filing

ICP Filing is a registration process required by the MIIT for websites wishing to be hosted in China. It involves submitting website and owner information for official approval, ensuring the site’s compliance with Chinese regulations.

This process is mandatory for both commercial and non-commercial websites to legally operate within China.

ICP Filing is a requirement set by the state for businesses and individuals engaged in Internet information services, with clear laws and regulations established.

This involves a review of all websites, both large and small (including corporate and personal sites). Non-commercial websites without a legitimate filing will face penalties based on the nature of the site, ranging from fines to website closure. This is to regulate network security and combat any criminal activities using online resources.

Companies planning to engage in Internet information services must purchase a domain name and then conduct an ICP Filing through their server provider, which is a management process for the domain name. By submitting relevant information such as the corporate legal person to MIIT, overseen and audited by local communications administrations, your domain registrar can then resolve the server address.

Only after successfully completing the ICP filing can your platform’s website address be activated and bound to your domain name, ensuring normal access to the website. Otherwise, websites without filing will be unable to be accessed normally.

Click here to learn more about NBH website services for China.

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An ICP Filing will review three aspects of website information

1. Server and Access Information: The audit will check if your access location and method comply with MIIT requirements. It’s recommended to check if your information is compliant before applying for an ICP Filing. For detailed information, please see the preparation and check of the ICP Filing server (access information).

2. Website Information: This includes reviewing whether your website’s name is compliant, whether the content is safe and compliant, and whether the website’s responsible person genuinely exists.

3. Entity Information: The audit checks if the website’s hosting entity is genuine and compliant. Subsidiaries registered in Mainland China can use their registration documents to apply for an ICP Filing. If a subsidiary is not registered in Mainland China, an application for the “Registration Certificate of Resident Representative Offices of Enterprises of Foreign (Regions) Countries” from the Administrative Department for Industry and Commerce is required as a business license to submit an ICP Filing application.

Can Websites Hosted on Foreign Servers Apply for an ICP Filing?

The answer is NO!

Websites hosted on servers outside mainland China cannot undergo the ICP Filing process, meaning the MIIT will not accept applications for such sites.

Consequently, these websites have certain limitations when it comes to activities to promote the website online in China. Such as search engine optimization on Baidu becomes more difficult as Baidu index websites hosted outside China with a lower score compared to websites hosted in China.

The most basic condition for foreign companies to apply for an ICP Filing is that the hosting entity must be a branch registered in Mainland China, which can submit the ICP Filing application using the branch’s registration documents. This includes joint ventures, Wholly Foreign-Owned Enterprises (WFOEs), and 100% domestically-owned companies.

If a branch is not registered in Mainland China, one must apply to the local Administrative Department for Industry and Commerce for the “Registration Certificate of Resident Representative Offices of Enterprises of Foreign (Regions) Countries” 《外国(地区)企业常驻代表机构登记证》 to use as a business license when submitting an ICP Filing application.

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Man hand touching https address.

The applicant for ICP Filing (website responsible person) can be a foreign national. Regardless of whether the website administrator is a mainland Chinese resident or a foreigner, face recognition is required as part of the the ICP Filing process.

In special cases, follow the system prompts for operations, with both the entity responsible and the website’s responsible person completing face verification.

Note: If encountering special situations during the corporate ICP Filing, system prompts may require face recognition by the legal representative, and you should follow the prompts accordingly.

Benefits of ICP Filing

Obtaining an ICP Filing for hosting a website in China gives several key benefits and opportunities:

1. Improved Performance: Hosting a website within China reduces latency and improves loading times for local users, enhancing the user experience and potentially increasing engagement and retention rates.

    2. SEO Benefits: Having a local website with an ICP Filing can improve Baidu search engine rankings within China, making it easier for potential customers to find the company’s services or products. You will be eligible to use the “.cn” and “.com.cn” domain names.

    3. Trust and Credibility: Compliance with local regulations demonstrates a commitment to the Chinese market, potentially increasing trust among Chinese audience and business partners.

    In summary, obtaining an ICP Filing enables companies to effectively operate a website adapted for the Chinese market. Providing a foundation for increased visibility, end-user experience and enabling business growth.

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    Difference Between ICP Filing and ICP License

    It’s important to clarify that many websites often confuse the two terms: ICP Filing and ICP License. What we have discussed so far refers to ICP Filing, which is different from an ICP License. In the context of China’s internet regulations, ICP Filing (ICP备案) and ICP License (ICP许可证) serve different purposes and have distinct requirements.


    Obtaining an ICP Filing is an essential step for any company looking to establish a digital presence in China. It’s not just about compliance; it’s about opening doors to the vast Chinese internet user base, ensuring optimal website performance, and enhancing the effectiveness of digital marketing efforts.

    The process involves submitting specific documents and meeting certain qualifications, but the payoff is access to one of the world’s largest markets. In essence, an ICP Filing of your China-hosted website is a ticket to legally and successfully navigating the digital landscape in China.

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