Finding out when and where a Chinese company registered is a basic step in checking that they’re a legitimate company you want to do business with. This simple check can be a very easy way to raise red flags in situations such as the following:
One of the difficulties in confirming a company’s registration is that you need to know which province they are registered in before you can look up their records. This is significant if you don’t want to make the company aware that you are researching them and looking up their records. If you are happy for them to know (and usually you should be – these checks are very normal), then you can just ask for their business license and go from there. Otherwise you might have to do some extra research first to identify the location of registration.
As with many basic checks on a Chinese company, the first step is to ask for a copy of their business license. As we mentioned above, don’t be concerned about asking for a copy of a company’s business license: it’s a perfectly normal and legitimate request. We emphasize this point frequently here, as asking for a copy of the business license is a very simple way to quickly establish basic facts about a company. At the very least, if a company gives you any hassle about providing a copy of their business license, it’s an immediate hint that something may be amiss.
The business license will tell you when and where the Chinese company registered with the authorities. There are two fields for this on the business license, highlighted on the example license below:
The location of the registration is actually described on the business license in Chinese as “Registering Authority” (登记机关 – Dēngjì Jīguān). Unlike the other fields, it’s given in the form of a stamp from the registering office.
The date of registration (different to the date of establishment) is the first date given on the right. This is described as the “Period of Operation” (营业期限 – Yíngyè Qīxiàn) on the business license. Whilst this may sound like it refers to the entire time the company has been in business, it’s actually just about the period of validity for this business license. The company may have had previous business licenses in the past, and hopefully will have more in the future. You can see if this is the company’s first business license by comparing the ‘Period of Operation’ date and the ‘Date of Establishment’.
The next step is to find the company’s public registration record. To do this, you need to visit the website of the AIC (Industrial and Commercial Administration Bureau, 工商行政管理局, Gōngshāng Xíngzhèng Guǎnlǐjú) for the district the company was registered in. You can identify this district via the ‘Registering Authority’ section of the business license. Each province has its own separate AIC, and they all work slightly differently.
On the AIC’s website, you can search for a company using its Chinese name (shown on the business license). It is not possible to search in English, because the official, registered name of a Chinese company is always in Chinese. Also, the AIC websites can be quite picky about search terms – sometimes it must be entered in its entirety with zero deviations, otherwise no records will be returned. Once you’ve found the public registration record for the company, you can use it to corroborate the information on the business license you’ve been shown. Note that the public registration records can be out of date in some cases, as the AICs tend to update them gradually in their own time. Getting hold of the most up to date registration record requires retrieving a paper copy by sending a lawyer in person to the AIC.
Once you’ve found the public registration record for the company, you can use it to corroborate the information on the business license you’ve been shown. Note that the public registration records can be out of date in some cases, as the AICs tend to update them gradually in their own time. Getting hold of the most up to date registration record requires retrieving a paper copy by sending a lawyer in person to the AIC.
If this all seems a little too time consuming, you might consider ordering a China company verification report. Our company verification report includes identification of where and when a Chinese company registered and translates and explains in full the contents of their Chinese business license – all very useful information for assessing a Chinese company.
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