Sandra Day O'Connor College of Law

Law Library

United States Treaties and International Agreements


The United States often enters into agreements with other countries. Two types of agreements are treaties and executive agreements. The United States Constitution art. 2, § 2 dictates that treaties are international agreements that have received the advice and consent of two-thirds of the Senate and have been ratified by the President. There are two types of treaties. Bilateral treaties are agreements made by two countries. Multilateral treaties are agreements made by three or more countries. As chief executive of the United States, the President has the authority to create international agreements with other nations without Senate approval. These international agreements are called executive agreements.

Treaty-Making Process

Treaties are initiated at the executive level of government usually by the President or the Secretary of State. A representative for the United States is sent to negotiate the terms of the treaty with the representatives of other countries. When the parties agree on the terms, the representative submits the terms to the Secretary of State for approval. If the terms are accepted by the Secretary of State, then the representative will sign the treaty. The Secretary of State submits the treaty to the President for transmittal to the Senate.

Once the President receives the treaty, it is submitted to the Senate for approval. In the Senate, it is referred to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee for consideration. The committee considers the terms of the treaty and, upon approval, submits the treaty to the entire Senate for consideration. The Senate must approve the treaty with a 2/3 majority vote. The President ratifies the treaty and proclaims its entry into force.

Executive-Agreement Process

Executive Agreements follow much of the same process as treaties. They are initiated at the Executive level of government and are negotiated by a representative. When the parties agree on the terms, the Secretary of State authorizes the negotiator to sign the agreement and the agreement will enter into force. Executive agreements do not go to the Senate for consideration and approval. However, the Senate does need to be notified by the Executive Branch within 60 days of signing the agreement [Case-Zablocki Act (1 U.S.C. § 112b)].


Scope and Access

The goals of this guide are to familiarize researchers with the treaty process, identify print and electronic sources containing the text of treaties and agreements, identify tools to update and check the status of a treaty, and help researchers locate legislative history on treaties.

WestlawNext links will take you to the specified database if you have a password. Public access to these databases is available in the reading room of the Ross-Blakley Law Library.  HeinOnline, and ProQuest Congressional databases are also available to the public on the ASU computer network, including remote access for ASU faculty, staff, and students.

Finding Aids for Treaties

Treaties in Force

Treaties in Force is an annual publication that indexes treaties and international agreements in which the United States is a party that are currently in force as of January 1 of a given year. It is arranged into two sections, bilateral treaties and multilateral treaties. The bilateral section is arranged by country and within each country, broad subject headings. The multilateral section is arranged by subject.


A Guide to the United States Treaties in Force

This annual publication is used in conjunction with Treaties in Force and provides additional access points for locating treaties. Treaties are indexed numerically, by country, by subject, and chronologically.

Igor Kavass, the compiler of this index, assigns newly ratified treaties a "KAV" number. The text of these treaties is available on HeinOnline. When the treaty is later assigned a TIAS number, the official numbering by the State Department, the KAV number is replaced with the TIAS number. The index contains tables that cross reference KAV and TIAS numbers.


United States Treaty Index and Current Treaty Index

The United States Treaty Index indexes treaties that are currently in force and those not in force. Treaties are indexed numerically, geographically, by subject, by country, and chronologically. Entries for the above indexes contain a brief summary of the content of the treaty, signature date, date the treaty entered into force, citations to where the full-text of treaty can be located, and amendments and their citations. The United States Treaty Index is kept current by the Current Treaty Index.


Full-text Treaty Sources

Pre-1950 Treaties

Statutes at Large (Stat.)
Statutes at Large is the official source for treaties ratified prior to 1950. Volume 8 contains treaties from 1778–1845. After 1845, the text of the treaties are in parts 2 and 3 of each sessional volume. Volume 64, part 3 contains a cumulative list of treaties contained in the Statutes at Large. They are indexed by country and by subject.


Treaties and Other International Agreements of the United States of America, 1776–1949 (Bevans)
More commonly referred to by its compiler's name, Bevans is an unofficial source for treaties ratified before 1950. This is a 13-volume set that compiles all of the treaties that appear in the Statutes at Large. Volumes 1–4 contain multilateral treaties and volumes 5–12 contain bilateral treaties arranged alphabetically by country. Volume 13 contains the index to the set.


Post-1949 Treaties

Beginning January 1, 1950, treaties were no longer published in the Statutes at Large. Rather, a new set was created called United States Treaties and Other International Agreements.

United States Treaties and Other International Agreements (U.S.T.)
United States Treaties and Other International Agreements is the official source for treaties ratified after 1949. Bound volumes contain the text of each treaty in all of the signatories' languages and list the important dates during the ratification process. This set is about 14 years behind schedule.


Treaties and Other International Acts Series (T.I.A.S.)
Prior to a treaty's appearance in U.S.T., they are issued as a slip treaty and receive a unique TIAS number. This is the first official publication of a treaty. This series is about 11 years behind schedule.


KAV Agreements
This source is used to locate unpublished treaties and international agreements. KAV numbers, which are assigned by Igor I. Kavass, are a unique numbering system to assist in identifying those agreements that have been entered into force but have not yet been published in U.S.T. or T.I.A.S. Until a treaty is assigned a TIAS number by the State Department, KAV numbers are used to identify treaties and international agreements.


United Nations Treaty Series (U.N.T.S.)
The United Nations Treaty Series is a collection of treaties and international agreements that have been registered with the United Nations and published by the Secretariat since 1946. The series includes the texts of treaties in their authentic language(s), along with translations into English and French, as appropriate.


Our International Law Portal lists additional sources for finding the full text of treaties.

Updating and Checking the Status of Treaties

It may be necessary to see where the treaty is in the ratification process or to see if a treaty has been amended or revised. The sources listed below provide this information.


Thomas Website
The Thomas website allows researchers to check the status of a treaty from 94th Congress (1975) to present. Older treaties are included if they were pending in 1975. Searches can be done by Congress, Treaty Document Number, Keyword, Type of Treaty (subject matter) and date of transmittal to the Senate. Each record contains Treaty number, transmission date, date entered into force (if applicable), Short Title, Subject Type, Countries involved, TIAS number, Popular Title, Formal Title, Related Documents, and Legislative Actions. The text of treaties as submitted to the Senate is available from the 104th Congress forward.

Senate Website
This website has four sections. The first section, Treaties Received, lists treaties that were transmitted from the President to the Senate during the current Congress. The second section, Treaties Approved, lists treaties that were approved by the Senate during the current congressional session. Treaty Actions lists treaties that have had Senate floor status action during the current Congress. The list contains the date of the action and a brief description of what occurred. Treaties on the Executive Calendar, the last section, lists treaties that were reported out of the Committee on Foreign Relations and are ready to be debated in the Senate. This site is for treaty research only. Since executive agreements are not approved by the Senate, they are not listed here.

State Department Treaty Actions
This website lists actions taken by the State Department in regard to treaties and international agreements. It includes actions from 1997. Bilateral treaties are listed first and are arranged by country. Multilateral treaties, which are listed by subject, follow. This site can be used to track treaties and executive agreements.

Locating Background Information about Treaties (Legislative History)

Treaties are often ambiguous and interpretations may differ. To help clarify what the intent is, researchers can do a legislative history on a treaty. Below is a list of sources that can be consulted.

Senate Treaty Documents
Senate treaty documents contain the text of the proposed treaty, a statement from the President and Secretary of State, and other supporting documentation. Prior to 1979, these documents were called Senate Executive Documents.


Senate Executive Reports


After the Foreign Relations Committee has studied and held hearings on a treaty, they issue a Senate Executive Report. This is the most important document when conducting a legislative history because it contains the Committee's analysis and recommendations for the proposed treaty. The document also contains the text of the treaty and any amendments or reservations that the committee has recommended.


Congressional Record
After the Senate Foreign Relations Committee reports on the treaty, the treaty goes to the Senate for debate and an approval vote. The Congressional Record will contain the Senate proceedings of the debate and may contain the text of the proposed treaty. If an amendment or reservation is recommended during the debate, the text of the change is likely to appear.


Subject Specific Treaties

Tax Treaties

U.S. Tax Treaties Reporter
This reporter contains the text of income and estate and gift tax treaties between the United States and other countries. This set contains official explanations of treaties and new developments on treaties already in existence and waiting to be ratified.


The IRS Website contains the text of selected income tax treaties.

Extradition Treaties

Extradition Law and Treaties
This four volume set contains extradition treaties in force between the United States and other countries. Treaties are arranged by the country.

Location: K5443 .A2 U683 1980

U.S. Department of State

Unperfected Treaties

Unperfected Treaties of the United States of America 1776–1976
This nine volume set contains treaties that the United States signed but never entered into force. It includes over 400 unperfected treaties. This source contains the text of the treaty and a paragraph explaining why it never went into force.

Location: S 9.12/2b


updated 1/2015


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