August 2016

The New 18-Digit Chinese Business Registration Number

Introduced in October 2015, the new 18-digit Chinese business registration number has now been adopted by companies across Mainland China.

Appearing on the Chinese business license, this new number is the most clear manifestation of the huge overhaul of the company registration system, carried out by authorities in their impressive modernization drive.

If you have been surprised to find out that your supplier in China has a new registration number, or have been asked to record this number on shipments, this article provides explanations and should offer some reassurance.

Evolution of the Chinese Business Registration Number

Prior to October 2015, the China business license was just one of 3 key company registration documents, alongside the organization code certificate and and the tax registration certificate.

As such, the Chinese business registration number was just one of 3 important registration numbers, because the organization code and tax registration certificates also had their own.

Comprised of 15-digits the old system worked well when it was created, but with the remarkable development of China’s economy leading to a huge number of newly registered companies, the authorities realized that they needed something more sophisticated to streamline their services.

In October 2015, roll-out of the 18-digit registration number commenced. This new registration number represents a newly unified system which incorporates elements of the organization code and the tax registration number.

The transition to the new 18-digit business registration number, also known as "Unified Social Credit Code", was completed before the end of 2017.

Chinese Business Registration – A Quick Intro

No matter big or small, all Mainland Chinese companies are required to apply for a business license from the Administration for Industry and Commerce (AIC)  in order to register their name and operate legally.

These registrations are processed through a huge network of local branches across China and a business registration number is issued along with, and displayed on, the company business license.

18-Digit Chinese Business Registration Number Overview

The new 18-digit business registration number actually goes by the Chinese name “统一社会信用代码” which could be translated as “Unified Social Credit Code”. But for ease of understanding, and given that it is displayed on a company’s business license, we simply refer to it as the “Chinese business registration number”.

Other names we have seen used for this number are "Unified Social Credit Number" (USCN) and "Unified Social Credit Indicator" (USCI). It can also be considered to be the TIN (Tax Identification Number) for Mainland China entities.

Here is how it is displayed at the top of a Chinese business license besides the characters “统一社会信用代码”:

The Chinese business registration number’s 18 digits can be broken into the following parts:

  • First digit: registering authority
  • Second digit: registered entity type
  • 3-8 digits: registering region code
  • 9-17 digits: organization code
  • Final digit: check digit

This gives you a breakdown like this:

XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX(one digit)(one digit)(six digits)(nine digits)(final digit)Registering authorityRegistered entity typeRegistered regionOrganization codeCheck digit

Now let’s take a look at how each of these parts are comprised in detail.

First Digit: Registering Authority

The first digit of the 18-digit Chinese business registration number is the code of the registering authority.

In nearly all cases you will find that 18-digit Chinese business registration numbers start with the number 9 – this is because this is the number that has been allocated to the AIC.

The authorities seem to have included this digit as a way of future-proofing the system should other organizations take responsibility for company registration. There are already some new systems for business registration being piloted in China’s free trade zones.

Second Digit: Registered Entity Type

The second digit of the business registration number indicates the type of entity that has been registered.

Here are some examples of what this number represents:

  • “1” is for “enterprise”
  • “2” is for “individually-owned business”
  • “3” is for “professional farmers cooperatives”

Digits 3-8: Administrative Division Code

Digits 3-8 of the registration number are the administration division code of the registering authority.

These numbers can be used to identify where the company is registered as this helpful entry on Wikipedia explains.

Digits 9-17: Organization Code

Digits 9-17 are in fact taken directly from the organization code, which you can read more about here.

Actually, when companies apply for and receive their new 18-digit China business registration number, they are issued with a new business license certificate but have to surrender their now obsolete organization code and tax registration certificates.

You may be surprised to find out that digits 3-17 of a company’s new business license number are in fact the same as their old tax registration number.

Final Digit: The Check Digit

Finally, the check digit is in place to allow authorities to carry out quick checks on the Chinese business registration number to make sure it is correct. If part of the number is mistyped, the check digit will come back false, making it easy to identify invalid numbers.

Note that unlike the other digits, this final digit can be either a number or a letter.

Other Features of the 18-digit Chinese Business Registration Number

Here are some other features and points to note regarding the new 18-digit Chinese business registration numbers:

  • They are unique at a national level
  • There is no meaning in the number [e.g., a higher number does not suggest anything about a company]
  • They do not change
  • They are not transferable
  • Even if the number of the registering authority changes, existing registration numbers are not permitted to change. Only new registrations will get the new authority number

How to Find a Chinese Company's 18-Digit Registration Number

The easiest way is to simply ask them for their company's “统一社会信用代码” (which translated literally means “Unified Social Credit Code”) or to check for this number on their business license.

If that proves difficult you can also consider ordering one of our China Company Verification reports.

Using our service not only quickly and conveniently verifies that a company is legally registered in Mainland China, but also identifies their 18-digit registration number together with a wide range of key information. See all report features.

Verify a China Company.

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Further reading