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Guide to International and Foreign Law Research

5 Steps for U.S. Treaty Research

  1. Start with secondary sources to find treaty citation - TIF, Journal Articles, International legal research guides
  2. Use citation to locate authoritative text of treaty - State Dept. website, HeinOnline
  3. Be mindful of any reservations, understandings, or declarations associated with the treaty
  4. Look for supplements or modifications (like protocols)
  5. Ask a reference librarian for help!

Abbreviations Cheat Sheet

U.S. Treaty research involves a lot of abbreviations and they can be difficult to keep up with. Here's a cheat sheet to help you keep all the letters straight:

  • TIF = Treaties in Force → Published each year with a listing of all treaties currently in force in the U.S.
  • TIAS = Treaties and Other International Acts Series → Published each year with a listing of all treaties and other non-treaty agreements to which the U.S. has become a party during the year. Current issues available online beginning in 1996.
  • UST = United States Treaties and Other International Agreements → Only available until 1982. Subsumed by TIAS.
  • TS = Treaty Series → Only available until 1945. Replaced by TIAS.

All of these U.S. treaty publications can be accessed through the Treaties and Agreements Library in HeinOnline, which is available through the law library's website.

Useful Resources for U.S. Treaty Research

U.S. Department of State: Treaty Affairs

Detailed information about treaty affairs in the U.S.


Treaties in Force

Index of current treaties in force in the U.S. Updated yearly with some delay between treaty ratification and inclusion in index.
 

Treaties and Other International Acts Series

Full-text publication of all treaties and non-treaty international agreements to which the U.S. has become a party within the year. Updated yearly with some delay between treaty ratification and inclusion in TIAS.


Congress.gov: Treaties

Collection of U.S. treaties going back to the 81st (1949-50) Congress.

 

U.S. Senate: Treaties

Treaty information from the current Congress.

 

HeinOnline: Treaties and Agreements Library  (subscription database available from Quick Links on the library homepage; if off campus, students will have to enter their username and password)

Contains texts of executive agreements, Senate treaty documents, and all the major U.S. treaty collections, including TIAS, UST, and TS.

Ratification Process

A treaty in the U.S. does not become law until it has been ratified:

  • Negotiation of treaties
  • State Department memo to the President
  • Transmittal letter by the President to the Senate
  • Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing
  • Senate approves treaty by 2/3 vote
  • Instrument of Ratification issued by the Pres.
  • Proclamation of entry in force by the President