When proof of address is required, as in starting a telephone account or registering for a local school district, one may need to obtain a copy of this record from the local government.
This is different from the koseki, where one's entire family is registered. One can have a koseki in one location, while one is currently living in another where the jūminhyō is registered.
A typical jūminhyō is a handwritten record name and address. Once registered with the local government, one can obtain national health insurance forms and other social services. Jūminhyō registration is also required before a Japanese citizen can register a name seal (inkan), which functions as one's signature.
Only Japanese citizens are listed on a jūminhyō; Japanese residents from other countries are recorded in a separate alien registration system. A non-Japanese married to a Japanese person may request to be listed in the "bikōran" (remarks) section. This is a source of controversy within the foreign community in Japan. If a Japanese person is living in a residence where a non-Japanese is the householder, that person may be listed as the setainushi (head of household). An example of this would be where a foreign national married to a Japanese is the registered owner of the couple's house.
After leaders of the Aum Shinrikyo sect were arrested for a Sarin gas attack, members of the group successfully complained that local authorities in several areas had refused to allow them to register, effectively preventing them from receiving government services, in order to discourage them from settling there.
On February 12, 2002, Nishi Ward office in Yokohama issued an honorary jūminhyō to Tama-chan, an arctic bearded seal who took up residence in the rivers of Yokohama and Tokyo and became a national celebrity. This prompted a group of non-Japanese residents to paint whiskers on their faces and stage a protest march to demand their own jūminhyō.
There have been other instances where local authorities have issued honorary jūminhyō to animals, as well as to statues, snowman and fictional characters. For example, Niiza, Saitama has issued an honorary jūminhyō for Astro Boy.