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 "Treaties - Foreign.")
This entry is divided into the following sections:
- Getting U.S. Treaties
- Researching U.S. Treaties and Citations
- Other Information Related to U.S. Treaties
A. 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.
(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 as Multinational 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's Treaties 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 called International 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 for unpublished 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. I suggest just:
(i) searching the name of the treaty in a search engine or two;
(ii) looking through the links on Eisil or Frequently Cited Treaties and Other International Instruments, which includes citations to treaty sets;
(iii) checking the United Nations Treaty Collection, which includes most U.N. treaties since 1945; or
(iv) trying sites with treaties that targets the subject you're looking for. For example, most trade-related U.S. treaties are available in the Trade Compliance Center posted by the U.S. Department of Commerce.
(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 or NYPL 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 firstname.lastname@example.org. 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 called International 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 of United 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., the Los 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's Treaty page. For a more comprehensive discussion of treaty research, see Fundamentals 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 on Thomas.
Tax Treaties: All U.S. income tax treaties are posted on the United States Income Tax Treaties - A to Z page of the IRS web site. News about tax treaties is generally reported in Tax Notes Today, which is available in hard copy or on Lexis (FEDTAX;TNT).
RIA/WGL and CCH both put out multi-volume sets called Tax Treaties, and Lexis/Mate Bender publishes U.S. International Taxation and Tax Treaties, annotated by Rufus Rhoades and Marshall J. Langer. All three sets contains all U.S. tax treaties. The CCH Tax Treaties is available online through Intelliconnect and the Rhoades & Langer set is on Lexis (FEDTAX;INTTXT). In addition, you can find both U.S. and foreign tax treaties in the subscription-based Worldwide Tax Treaties database from Tax Analysts, the RIA Worldwide Tax Law available through Checkpoint and the Tax Treaties Database published by the the International Bureau of Fiscal Documentation (IBFD). Also, tax treaties are included in all the generally sources discussed in the "Getting U.S. Treaties" section of this entry.
The law firm of Roberts & Holland produces a multi-volume set called Legislative History of United States Tax Conventions (W.S. Hein & Co.). The U.S. Tax Treaty Reference Library Index: US Tax Treaties in Force and Their Legislative Histories (Tax Analysts) provides legislative history information on U.S. tax treaties up to 1990.
For specifics, search for individual treaties and subjects by name. See also the "Model Laws" entry for information about model tax treaties.