Registering a domain in Mainland China can be pretty tricky. Due to strong government control over the web, it is darn right impossible to register a Chinese domain without having to deal with a huge amount of hassle.

While in the West, the whole process of registering a domain is pretty much straight forward and can be done within a few minutes, in Mainland China it is pretty much similar to the process of registering a company. As per the existing laws and regulations of the ministry of industry and information technology of the People’s Republic of China, all websites hosted on a server in mainland China must first obtain an ICP license. This goes for all websites (commercial or not).

What is an ICP License?

ICP License is short for Internet Content Provider License.

According to the Telecommunication Regulations of the People’s Republic of China Act No. 291 and No. 292 issued by the State Council of the People’s Republic of China, all commercial websites run in China must register for an ICP license.

Under Chinese law, all websites operating in China are required to get an ICP license, or else it will be blocked. For a website that is hosted outside of Mainland China, getting an ICP license won’t be necessary.

There are two types of ICP numbers issued by the Chinese Ministry of Industry and Information Technology (MIIT) (中华人民共和国工业和信息化部) at the provincial level:

ICP license — for example, 京ICP证XXXXXXXX号 — is used for commercial (operational) websites. This applies to any website that allows a customer to purchase goods or services online.

ICP filing — for example, 京ICP备XXXXXXXX号 — is used for non-commercial (informational) websites. This applies to websites that don’t include direct sales.

ICP License Application Procedure

After you provide the necessary documents to your provider, they will registers the ICP number for you. If all required documents are submitted correctly, it typically takes 20 business days to get an ICP number. Although there is no cost to register with MIIT, most providers will charge you  a fee between 500 – 1000 RMB. Contact your provider for more information about their service fees.

Step 1- Submit the required documents to the provider.

The provider reviews your documents. If the documents are not valid, you’re asked to submit additional documents. If the documents are valid, the provider submits the documents to the provincial MIIT ICP license registration system.

Step 2– MIIT reviews the ICP license application documents.

If approved, MIIT sends you an email message with an official ICP license registration number and a certificate. MIIT adds your ICP number to the MIIT ICP registration system. If not approved, MIIT tells the provider the reason. Then the provider asks you for more documents and you return to step 1.

Step 3 – Register Domain with ICP License

After you receive your ICP license from the MIIT, you are free to register a .cn domain with your provider. Please note, that you can use your ICP license for multiple sites.

Required Documents for ICP License Registration

  • Domain name certificate
  • ID card copy of contact person (must be Chinese national)
  • Photo ID of contact person (must be Chinese national)
  • Signed ICP application form (download from provider website)

If you are intending to register a website for commercial purposes, then you will also be required to submit additional information about your business:

  • Copy of original of the business license in China, with the company seal on it
  • Your official company name
  • Your company registered address
  • Name of the company investor(s)
  • Type of company
  • Contact person ID card number
  • Mobile number
  • Office line number
  • Email account

Remember that all forms are provided in Chinese and should be filled in Chinese only.

Important Things to Keep in Mind

  •  Foreign passport holders cannot be contact person for the website
  • The application takes from 3 to 6 weeks on average depending of type of website and province of registration of the company
  • Foreign companies (including Hong Kong, Macau and Taiwan) cannot apply for an ICP license
  • The ICP license cannot be applied for a website not hosted within mainland China
  • For new .cn domain names an ICP license is required prior to activation by the registrar