Treaties in the United States

Legal Materials

If the U.S. is a party to a treaty, you should be able to get the treaty without too much hassle. (For a discussion of treaties that the U.S. has not signed, see “Foreign Treaties” in this legal Encyclopedia)

This section is divided into the following sub-sections:

  • Getting U.S. Treaties
  • Researching U.S. Treaties and Citations
  • Other Information Related to U.S. Treaties

Getting U.S. Treaties

You can get U.S. treaties from (1) Thomas/FDsys; (2) Treatises and Treaty Compilations; (3) Databases; and (4) Treaty Sets. Note: To get tax treaties, also see the discussion of Tax Treaties in the “Other Information About U.S. Treaties,” below.

(1) Thomas/GPO Access. The GPO posts the full text of treaties adopted by the U.S. since the 104th Congress (1995-96). You can retrieve these treaties through Thomas and the Congressional Documents collection on FDsys. has “Treaty Documents” submitted to the Senate since the 94th Congress (1975-1976), plus Treaties submitted prior to the 94th Congress that were still pending in 1975.

(2) Treatises & Treaty Compilations: Some treatises publish the treaties relevant to their subject area. For example, the Treaty of Amsterdam is published in the European Union Law Reporter. In addition, there are many subject-specific compilations, such asMultinational Treaties on Intellectual Property published by William S. Hein & Co. You may want to take a quick look at any relevant treatises or treaty compilations that you have available before you search a database.

In addition, some of the most-referenced treaties are published in the “International Conventions” section of Martindale-Hubbell. These concern: (a) Serving Process Abroad; (b) Enforcing Foreign Judgments; (c) Taking Evidence Abroad; (d) Abolishing the Requirement of Legalization of Documents; (e) Contracts for the International Sale of Goods; (f) Limitations Period on the International Sale of Goods; (g) International Child Abduction; (h) Letters Rogatory; and (i) Commercial Arbitration.

(3) Databases: Almost all U.S. treaties are available in searchable databases, especially if they were enacted since 1979 or are still in force. “Databases” include various CD-ROMs, which you can try first, if you have them available. Otherwise, there are several good online databases, notably:

(a) Westlaw’s USTREATIES database, an online version of the State Department’sTreaties and Other International Acts Series (T.I.A.S.), includes all U.S. treaties enacted from 1979 to the present. New treaties are generally online within a month or two of enactment.

(b) Westlaw’s ILM database, which is the electronic version of a periodical calledInternational Legal Materials (I.L.M.) includes U.S. treaties and related materials from January 1980 to the current issue, although ILM also publishes foreign treaties and treaty-related materials (i.e., where the U.S. is not a party). Add “& Pr(treaty)” to the end of your search to get only treaties.

(c) The Lexis U.S. treaties database (INTLAW;USTRTY), includes U.S. treaties in force back to 1783.

(d) HeinOnline subscribers can access .pdf versions of the treaty sets discussed below, including Treaties and Other International Agreements of the United States of America(“Bevans”), United States Treaties and Other International Agreements (UST), Treaties and International Acts Series (TIAS) and International Legal Materials (I.L.M.), all discussed in the “Treaty Set” section below, as well as Treaties, Conventions, International Acts, Protocols and Agreements (“Malloy”), Treaties and Other International Acts of the United States of America (“Miller”) and Indian Affairs, Laws and Treaties (“Kappler”). The search function has many well-defined fields, making this a great way to pull a treaty if you have the citation and a subscription. In addition, the HeinOnline U.S. Treaties and Agreements Library is one of the few sources forunpublished treaties.

(e) Free Internet Postings. The Internet can be an easy way to get free copies of treaties, but it’s also easy to waste a lot of time and never find what you need. A suggestion may be:

(4) Treaty Sets. A Treaty Set is a series of volumes where treaties are published. Here’s a rundown of the major Sets publishing U.S. treaties:

Old U.S. treaties are published in (a) Treaties and Other International Agreements of the United States of America (better known as Bevans) which covers treaties enacted 1776-1949, (b) the Treaty Series (cited as “T.S. No.”), which covers 1778-1945, (c)Senate Executive Documents (S. Exec. Doc.), which covers 1778-1980 and (d) Statutes at Large (Stat.), which covers 1778-1949. The Executive Agreement Series(E.A.S. No.) published treaties from 1922-1945. The U.S. was also partner to some treaties published in the League of Nations Treaty Series, which covers 1922-1945. Note: Bevans is available on HeinOnline.

More recent U.S. treaties are published in United States Treaties and Other International Agreements (U.S.T.), a State Department publication which covers 1950 to about 15 years ago. The advance sheets to the U.S.T. are published by the State Department in a series called (T.I.A.S.), which should take you just about up to just a couple of months ago. UST is available to subscribers on HeinOnline until about two years ago. TIAS is available free back to 1996 on the State Department’s Texts of International Agreements to which the US is a Party (TIAS) page. TIA is also available through HeinOnline and Westlaw. (Cite Tip: If you have a T.I.A.S. cite for a treaty that should be in the U.S.T. by now, the “List of Documents” at the front of the bound volumes can help you find your treaty.)

Recent U.S. treaties are also published in a periodical called International Legal Materials (I.L.M.), which covers 1962 to the present (available through Westlaw, as discussed above) and the United Nations Treaty Series (U.N.T.S.), which covers 1946 to the present. As noted above, UNTS treaties from 1945 to present are available in the United Nations Treaty Collection. I.L.M. is available to subscribers on on HeinOnline.

IF YOU DON’T HAVE THE APPROPRIATE TREATY SET available, or if the volume you need is missing, you can get copies of the treaty or treaties you need by calling the document delivery services of most U.S. law school libraries (e.g., NYU) or other libraries with international materials (e.g., the Los Angeles County Law Library orNYPL Premium Services). To order a treaty you will have to provide a citation. If you don’t have a citation, see the section of this entry on Identifying U.S. Treaties and Citations, above.

FOR MORE INFORMATION on these sources, related sources and other ways to get U.S. treaties, see the George Washington University Law Library’s A Guide To Treaty Research and/or the “Treaties” section of a legal research treatise.

(5) If All Else Fails: Send an email to the U.S. State Department Treaty Office at They don’t do research, but they will provide the text of unpublished treaties in force not available elsewhere. If the treaty you want is not in force, file a FOIA Request. Other alternatives: you can call (a) the U.S. State Department’s Treaty Desk (202-647-1345), (b) a friendly international librarian at a law school library, (c) a researcher at NYPL Premium Services, (d) the equivalent of the State Department for other countries that are party to the treaty and/or (e) anyone else you can think of.

B. Researching U.S. Treaties and Citations

At times you may have to identify treaties, rather than just get one. For example, you may want to identify of all the treaties between the U.S. and Spain, all the U.S. treaties signed between 1956 and 1961, all the U.S. treaties concerning water pollution, or any combination of these features. In addition, you may sometimes have to get parallel citations to various treaty sets for the same treaty and/or a list of countries that have signed the treaty.

Electronic answers: You can use most of the other databases listed in the “Getting U.S. Treaties” section of this entry to identify treaties, and some of them have parallel citations. You could also use the Internet version of Treaties in Force (discussed below) or Hein’s U.S. Treaty Index on CD-ROM, which is an electronic version of Igor Kavass’U.S. Treaty Index (also discussed below). HeinOnline subscribers can access online versions of Statutes at Large, Treaties In Force and the Guide to Treaties in Force.

Print sources: The print versions of treaty indexes are the traditional tool for identifying treaties. You can’t search keywords or multiple criteria as you can with the databases. Also, you may not have easy access to the materials and many people will find it easier to use databases than the books. However, used correctly, the print versions of are accurate and comprehensive, and they have parallel cites and list the countries that signed the treaty and there’s no charge for using them.

The main distinction between U.S. treaty indexes is whether they cover only treaties still in effect (“in force”) or whether they list all treaties.

Treaties in Force: To identify/get sites for treaties that are in force (currently or for a prior year), use the U.S. State Department’s annual Treaties in Force, which lists all the treaties to which the U.S. is a party as of January 1 of a given year by country and subject. The first half of the book lists bi-lateral treaties, and the second half lists multi-lateral treaties. You have to search both halves to be sure you’ve covered the field. HeinOnline post historical editions of Treaties in Force, covering 1955 to the present.

A companion title, Kavass’ Guide to Treaties in Force lets you search for treaties by additional criteria, such as date and number (TIAS or KAV). The Guide to Treaties in Force is also available to subscribers on HeinOnline.

To update Treaties in Force, check out the Senate Treaty Page or a periodical calledInternational Legal Materials (I.L.M). I.L.M. is available in print, on Westlaw (ILM) and on HeinOnline.

If you can’t find a treaty in any of these sources, you can presume that the treaty is not currently in force for the U.S.

Treaties No Longer in Force: Kavass’ United States Treaty Index: 1776-1990 Consolidation lists all U.S. treaties enacted during those years, whether or not they are still in force. It is updated by Kavass’ Current Treaty Index. Alternatively, volume 64 ofUnited States Statutes at Large, starting at p. B1107, lists all treaties entered into by the U.S. from 1789 to 1949 (except treaties with Indian tribes), regardless of whether they are still in force.

You can get copies from the United States Treaty Index or Statutes at Large by calling the document delivery services of almost any U.S. law school library (e.g., N.Y.U. at 212-998-6302) or other large U.S. law libraries with international collections (e.g., theLos Angeles County Law Library or NYPL Premium Services).

Other Options: If you can’t find what you want using these sources, you can (a) call the Treaty Desk at the U.S. State Department (202-647-1345), (b) call a friendly international law librarian or (d) call someone else.

C. Other Information About U.S. Treaties

Circular 175 procedure: Circular 175 procedure is the name for U.S. State Department regulations for adopting treaties. While originally published in a Circular, the regulations are also availabe in the Code of Federal Regulations (22 CFR 181.4) and the State Department’s Foreign Affairs Manual (11 FAM 720).

Enacting statutes: To find the enacting legislation for a treaty in the United States Code, look in the index of the U.S.C.A. or U.S.C.S. under “Treaties.”

Questions: To find out if a U.S. treaty is still in effect, and for most other questions about U.S. treaties, call the State Department’s Treaty Desk (202-647-1345). Alternatively, see if the information is available through the U.S. State Department’sTreaty page. For a more comprehensive discussion of treaty research, seeFundamentals of Legal Research (West).

Related documents: In most cases, you won’t need other documents. But, if you do, you should know that Case-Zablocki Documents, Senate Treaty Documents and State Department Documents are in Westlaw’s USTREATIES database back to 1990, the 103rd Congress, and 90-1, respectively. You can also try Westlaw’s ILM database, although ILM isn’t limited to U.S. treaties.

Status: You can track the status of a Treaty introduced in the Senate since 1967 onThomas.

Tax Treaties:  See the separate entry for tax treaties information.

Defense Trade Cooperation Treaties

The United States signed two Defense Trade Cooperation Treaties with the United Kingdom and Australia. There are exemptions to the International Traffic in Arms Regulations (ITAR) created pursuant to the Treaties. U.S. exporters may submit a General Correspondence to the Office of Defense Trade Controls Policy to confirm whether their prospective transaction is Treaty eligible. While anyone may submit a General Correspondence, to confirm whether a UK or Australian export is Treaty-eligible, please visit or, respectively.

In September 2010, the U.S. Senate approved the two U.S. Defense Trade Cooperation Treaties with the United Kingdom and Australia and the passage of implementing legislation by the House and Senate. According to the Secretary of State, these “treaties recognize and support the long-standing special relationship between the United States and two of its closest allies and support U.S. national security interests by furthering cooperative efforts to meet shared security challenges.

The treaties accomplish this by creating a system that allows for a more streamlined and efficient movement of defense articles and services, thereby enhancing our ability to equip our armed forces with the best technology available in the most expeditious manner possible.”

Main Sections about Treaties

  • Treaties as Law of the United States: Learn about Treaties as Law of the United States in the U.S. legal Encyclopedia
  • Capacity and Authority to Conclude International Agreements: Learn about Capacity and Authority to Conclude International Agreements in the U.S. legal Encyclopedia
  • Approval of Treaties Under the U.S. Constitution: Learn about Approval of Treaties Under the U.S. Constitution in the U.S. legal Encyclopedia
  • Entry into Force of International Agreements: Learn about Entry into Force of International Agreements in the U.S. legal Encyclopedia
  • Reservations and Other Conditions in International Law: Learn about Reservations and Other Conditions in International Law in the worldwide legal Encyclopedia
  • Reservations and Other Conditions in the Law of the United States: Learn about Reservations and Other Conditions in the Law of the United States in the U.S. legal Encyclopedia
  • Interpretation of Treaties: Learn about Interpretation of Treaties in the worldwide legal Encyclopedia
  • Relationship of Treaties to Individual Constitutional Rights: Learn about Relationship of Treaties to Individual Constitutional Rights in the U.S. legal Encyclopedia
  • Conflicts Between Treaties and State or Local Law  Learn about Conflicts Between Treaties and State or Local Law in the U.S. legal Encyclopedia
  • Conflicts Between Treaties and Federal Statutes: Learn about Conflicts Between Treaties and Federal Statutes in the U.S. legal Encyclopedia
  • Self-Executing and Non-Self-Executing Treaty Provisions: Learn about Self-Executing and Non-Self-Executing Treaty Provisions in the U.S. legal Encyclopedia
  • Private Rights of Action: Learn about Private Rights of Action in the U.S. legal Encyclopedia
  • Relationship of Treaties to Separation of Powers: Learn about Relationship of Treaties to Separation of Powers in the U.S. legal Encyclopedia
  • Relationship of Treaties to Federalism: Learn about Relationship of Treaties to Federalism in the U.S. legal Encyclopedia
  • Suspension or Termination: Learn about Suspension or Termination in the U.S. legal Encyclopedia

Treaties Table of Content

The Basics
Treaties defining
Subjects of International Law: International Organizations, European Union and other Subjets of International law
Treaty-Making and NGOs

Treaty Formation
Making the Treaty
Treaty Signature
Provisional Application of Treaties
Treaty process: Formation and Registration
Treaty Reservations

Treaty Application
Treaties Territorial Application
Third Party Rights and Obligations
Treaty Amendments
Application of Treaties domestically
Treaties and State Succession
Treaty Conflicts

Treaty Interpretation
Treaty Interpretation and the Vienna Convention Rules on

Treaty Commitments
Treaty Commitments
Treaties Validity and Invalidity
Treaty Breaches
Treaty termination
Applying the Treaty
End of Treaty Relations


Treaties, Amendment and Revision
Treaties, Conclusion and Entry into Force
Treaties, Conflict Clauses
Treaties, Conflicts between
Treaties, Declarations of Interpretation
Treaties, Direct Applicability
Treaties, Fundamental Change of Circumstances
Treaties, Multilateral, Reservations to
Treaties, Object and Purpose
Treaties of Friendship, Commerce, and Navigation
Treaties, Provisional Application
Treaties, Registration and Publication
Treaties, Secret
Treaties, Suspension
Treaties, Termination
Treaties, Territorial Application
Treaties, Third-Party Effect
Treaties, Unequal
Treaties, Validity
Treaty-Making Power
Treaty of Lausanne

See Also

International Law
General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade
Memorandum of Understanding
North American Free Trade Agreement
Indian Law
Statutes At Large
Treaties – Foreign
United Nations
United Nations Commission on International Trade Law (UNCITRAL)
United Nations Convention on Contracts for the International Sale of Goods
United States Congressional Serial Set
United States Department of State
World Trade Organization

Maastricht Treaty in the International Business Landscape

Definition of Maastricht Treaty in the context of U.S. international business and public trade policy: Treaty agreed to in 199 1, but not ratified until January 1, 1994, that committed the 12 member states of the European Community to a closer economic and political union.

Introduction to Jay’s Treaty 1794

In the context of the legal history: It was signed in the hopes of settling the growing conflicts between the U.S. and Britain. It dealt with the Northwest posts and trade on the Mississippi River. It was unpopular with most Americans because it did not punish Britain for the attacks on neutral American ships. It was particularly unpopular with France, because the U.S. also accepted the British restrictions on the rights of neutrals.

Introduction to Pickney’s Treaty 1795

In the context of the legal history: Treaty between the U.S. and Spain which gave the U.S. the right to transport goods on the Mississippi river and to store goods in the Spanish port of New Orleans.

Treaties in Constitutional Law

A list of entries related to Treaties may be found, under the Treaties category, in the United States constitutional law platform of this legal Encyclopedia.

Treaties (Political Questions)

This section introduces, discusses and describes the basics of treaties. Then, cross references and a brief overview about Political Questions is provided. Finally, the subject of Justiciability in relation with treaties is examined. Note that a list of cross references, bibliography and other resources appears at the end of this entry.

Finding the law: Treaties in the U.S. Code

A collection of general and permanent laws relating to treaties, passed by the United States Congress, are organized by subject matter arrangements in the United States Code (U.S.C.; this label examines treaties topics), to make them easy to use (usually, organized by legal areas into Titles, Chapters and Sections). The platform provides introductory material to the U.S. Code, and cross references to case law. View the U.S. Code’s table of contents here.


In Legislation

Treaties in the U.S. Code: Title 25, Chapter 3, Subchapter I

The current, permanent, in-force federal laws regulating treaties are compiled in the United States Code under Title 25, Chapter 3, Subchapter I. It constitutes “prima facie” evidence of statutes relating to Indians (including treaties) of the United States. The reader can further narrow his/her legal research of the general topic (in this case, Agreements and Agreements with Indians and Indians of the US Code, including treaties) by chapter and subchapter.


In the context of the legal history:

See Also

  • International Treaties
  • Multilateral Treaties

Treaties in Constitutional Law

A list of entries related to Treaties may be found, under the Treaties category, in the United States constitutional law platform of this legal Encyclopedia.


In the context of the legal history:

See Also

  • International Treaties
  • Multilateral Treaties

Treaties: Open and Free Legal Research of US Law

Federal Primary Materials

The U.S. federal government system consists of executive, legislative, and judicial branches, each of which creates information that can be the subject of legal research about Treaties. This part provides references, in relation to Treaties, to the legislative process, the federal judiciary, and the primary sources of federal law (cases, statutes, and regulations).

Federal primary materials about Treaties by content types:

Laws and Regulations

US Constitution
Federal Statutory Codes and Legislation

Federal Case Law and Court Materials

U.S. Courts of Appeals
United States courts of appeals, inclouding bankruptcy courts and bankcruptcy appellate panels:

Federal Administrative Materials and Resources

Presidential Materials

Materials that emanate from the President’s lawmaking function include executive orders for officers in departments and agencies and proclamations for announcing ceremonial or commemorative policies. Presidential materials available include:

Executive Materials

Federal Legislative History Materials

Legislative history traces the legislative process of a particular bill (about Treaties and other subjects) for the main purpose of determining the legislators’ intent behind the enactment of a law to explain or clarify ambiguities in the language or the perceived meaning of that law (about Treaties or other topics), or locating the current status of a bill and monitoring its progress.

State Administrative Materials and Resources

State regulations are rules and procedures promulgated by state agencies (which may apply to Treaties and other topics); they are a binding source of law. In addition to promulgating regulations, state administrative boards and agencies often have judicial or quasi-judicial authority and may issue administrative decisions affecting Treaties. Finding these decisions can be challenging. In many cases, researchers about Treaties should check state agency web sites for their regulations, decisions, forms, and other information of interest.

State rules and regulations are found in codes of regulations and administrative codes (official compilation of all rules and regulations, organized by subject matter). Search here:

State opinions of the Attorney General (official written advisory opinions on issues of state law related to Treaties when formerly requested by a designated government officer):

Tools and Forms

Law in Other Regions

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