Treaty Document

Treaty Document in the United States

Treaty Document

Legislative Definition of TREATY DOCUMENT

This Congressional concept is provided by the United States Congress website as a a basic reference document: The text of a treaty as submitted to the Senate by the executive branch, as well as letters of transmittal from the President and the Secretary of State, and accompanying background documentation.



This entry is designed to lead you through the basic process for finding treaty texts and treaty status information in the sources generally available. The entry cannot anticipate all of the complications you may encounter.

The treaty texts, finding aids, and status information are found in a mixture of print and online sources.


Whether the treaty is bilateral or multilateral, if the United States is a party to the treaty it will be listed in Treaties in Force. (There is an online version on the State Department website, but it is an Adobe Acrobat image of the print product and it is cumbersome to use.) Use the volume for the current year to get the citation(s) to the treaty, the list of parties, and the date the treaty entered into force.

Treaties in Force appears only once a year so the information maybe not be completely up to date, especially for multilateral treaties. The Office of the Legal Adviser of the State Department posts updates online in Treaty Actions and updates also appear in the current issues of International Legal Materials (KJ5.A51). The best source for up-to-date information is still the Treaty Affairs division of the Office of the Legal Adviser.

Citations in Treaties in Force will be to:

  • UST – United States Treaties (KJ186)
  • TIAS – Treaties and Other International Agreements (KJ186) which serves as an advance sheet to UST. [For financial reasons publication of TIAS was suspended in 2000 with number 12710. It is not known when publication will recommence. One way of filling in this gap is use the treaty texts posted on THOMAS which begin with the 104th Congress. These are online versions of the texts which apepar in Senate Treaty Documents.
  • UNTS – United Nations Treaty Series (KJ179)
  • LTS – League of Nations Treaty Series (KJ178)
  • Stat. – United States Statutes at Large (KA73)
  • Bevans – Treaties and Other International Agreements of the United States of America (KJ186)

Treaties which have come into force for the United States and are not yet published in TIAS do not have a TIAS number in Treaties in Force. It is still possible to find the text in other sources: Senate Treaty Documents, commercial publications, or online. Online versions of the texts of treaties transmitted to the Senate can be found in THOMAS beginning with the 104th Congress. The texts of treaties ratified since January 1, 1990, appear in the volumes of Consolidated Treaties and International Agreements (KJ186).

References to texts published in International Legal Materials (KJ5.A51) or Senate Treaty Documents (KA55) can be found in Current Treaty Index (KJ186). Trade treaties are found on TARA (Trade and Related Agreements), a database maintained by the Trade Compliance Center of the Department of Commerce. The texts of new trade treaties sometimes appear on the website of the U.S. Trade Representative under the “Regions” tab.


If the United States was a party to the treaty but the treaty is no longer in force, the treaty will not appear in the current issue of Treaties in Force. Instead use one of the following indexes to get a citation to the treaty:

  • Kavass, United States Treaty Index. 1776-1990 Consolidation. (KJ186).
  • Volume 64 of United States Statutes at Large Pt. 2, p. 1107 et seq (KA73). This lists all treaties of the United States from 1789 to 1949 except for treaties with Indian tribes.

Citations will be to:

  • UST – United States Treaties (KJ186)
  • UNTS – United Nations Treaty Series (KJ179)
  • LTS- League of Nations Treaty Series (KJ178)
  • Stat. – United States Statutes at Large (KA73)
  • Bevans – Treaties and Other International Agreements of the United States of America (KJ186)
  • Malloy – Treaties, Conventions, International Acts, Protocols and Agreements Between the United States of America and Other Powers (KJ186)
  • Miller – Treaties and Other International Acts of the United States of America (KJ186)


If the United States is not a party to the treaty, the search for the text will be more complicated. If the treaty is recent and newsworthy the text may appear in International Legal Materials (KJ5.A51) or online (see Treaties on the Internet) in a variety of sources.

If the United States participated in treaty negotiations but ultimately did not ratify the treaty, the text may appear in Wiktor, Unperfected Treaties of the United States of America, 1776-1976 (KJ186.U78).


Each of the indexes for multilateral treaties listed here has different limitations as to the type of treaty included and the dates of coverage. You may need to try more than one of these. If your treaty does not appear in one of these see in the World Encyclopedia of Law.

  • Multilateral Treaties Deposited with the Secretary-General, Status as at 31 December [year] (KJ179). Gives status information, parties, citations to available texts, and full texts of reservations and declarations for multilateral treaties deposited with the United Nations and the League of Nations. This set does not include all of the treaties published by the United Nations. It is limited to those multilateral treaties for which the Secretary-General of the United Nations performs certain specific record-keeping duties which are known as depositary functions. There is an online version of this index which is much more up to date than the print product. You can see in the Foreign & international Law encyclopedia.
  • World Treaty Index. 2d ed (KJ211.R73). Indexes treaties from the League of Nations, the United Nations and 22,000 other treaties for the period 1900-1980. Citations are to LTS, UNTS or to the most likely available country resource. Law Libraries may or may not have all of these items. If no other source can be found, the citation will be to IF (Internal Files of a country) and these will not be available because they are not published.
  • Index Guide to Treaties: Based on Consolidated Series. (KJ176.P3 Index). Extensive index to the Consolidated Treaty Series (often referred to as Parry, KJ176.P3) which covers the original text and all official translations of all international treaties signed between 1648 and 1918.
  • Multilateral Treaties: Index and Current Status (KJ211.B78). Indexes more than 800 treaties with extensive status information and is supplemented to January 1, 1993.
  • Wiktor,Multilateral Treaty Calendar. (KJ211). A chronological listing of multilateral treaties from 1648 through 1995 with citations to printed texts, and information on duration, depositary arrangements, and status.


Bilateral treaties to which the United States is not a party can be the most difficult to find. The treaty collections of other countries can be used to find the texts of bilateral treaties. Subject treaty collections, which generally have their own indexes, may also include bilateral treaties. You will need to check both the online catalog and the old card catalog to find these sources. The search “treaties indexes” or “[country name] treaties indexes” on a database will bring up treaty indexes by subject or by country. In the card catalog, the search is by subject or by country.

The search “treaties collections” on a database or “Treaties-Collections” in the card catalog will bring up collections of treaties both by country and by subject, and the country name can be added to the search. Some countries publish treaties in their official gazettes. The Foreign and International Law encyclopedia can help you determine whether your treaty appears in one of these.

Countries which are members of the United Nations are supposed to provide the United Nations with the texts of their treaties for publication in UNTS. This requirement is often ignored, but you can check the online listing of United Nations treaties for you if other sources are not helpful.


Until a treaty has been signed and ratified, the treaty is not in force. During this period it may be especially difficult to find the text. International Legal Materials (KJ5.A51) regularly publishes the texts of newly adopted treaties that are not yet in force. If the treaty does not appear there, the text may be available on the website of the organization which sponsored the treaty.

If the United States has signed a treaty but has not yet ratified the treaty, it is not in force for the United States. You can use CCH Congressional Index (KA72.C7) to find the status of treaties submitted to the Senate for advise and consent or to both houses of Congress for ratification. Use either CCH Congressional Index or CIS Indexes and Abstracts (KA54.A1) to find references to Senate Treaty Documents (KA55.R8) that may include the text of the treaty. References to texts published in International Legal Materials or Senate Treaty Documents can be found in Current Treaty Index (KJ186.U7).You can also find treaty status information online in THOMAS.

The problems of searching for texts of draft treaties are beyond the scope of the entry. Please consult the Foreign and International Law Encyclopedia for more information.


It is possible to find full texts of treaties on the internet by searching treaty websites selected by a librarian or by searching various search engines for the title of the treaty, by searching the website of the international organization that sponsored the treaty, or by searching for other websites that incude treaty texts. The quality of treaty websites varies widely. Some give full texts, regularly updated status information, and lists of signatories and parties. Others will include only the text. As with most items on the internet, full text transcriptions tend to be either recent or historically noteworthy treaties. The better transcriptions of treaties include a citation, often as part of the heading, from which you can obtain the text in the print sources.



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