Foreign and Comparative Law Research Guide

Foreign law is the national (also referred to as domestic or internal) law of any country other than the United States and research methods will vary depending on the country you are researching. This guide provides starting points.

Official Gazettes

What Are Official Gazettes?

Almost every jurisdiction outside the U.S. publishes newly enacted legislation and regulations in an official publication that is similar to the Federal Register.  These publications are referred to generically as official gazettes, national gazettes or government gazettes.  Some gazettes also selectively publish decisions by constitutional courts and other courts of final appeal.

In many jurisdictions, newly enacted laws may not take effect until they have been published in the official gazette.  For some jurisdictions, particularly those in the developing world, the official gazette is the only published source for both legislation and regulations.

Some common characteristics of official gazettes worth bearing in mind:

  • Most gazettes are published every business day.
  • Many gazettes consist of multiple parts or sections, each of which contains different types of content (legislation, regulations, court decisions, announcements, etc.)
  • Gazettes publish laws chronologically as enacted, but there is often a time lag between the date of enactment and the date of publication, which varies by jurisdiction.
  • Gazettes are published only in the official language(s) of the jurisdiction and are not translated into English.

Electronic Access to Official Gazettes

The online version of the official gazette of Chile.

Many jurisdictions now publish their official gazette online.  Unfortunately, not all online gazettes are free to access.  Some require a subscription in order to download content.

Gazettes that do offer free online access often have limited search capabilities.  Many can only be browsed chronologically.  In those cases, it is essential to know the date (or at least the year) when a law was enacted to retrieve the full text.

For information about a jurisdiction's official gazette, including its name, whether or not it is available online, and whether the electronic version is free to access, consult one or more of the following resources:

  • The Foreign Law Guide -- Begin by selecting the desired jurisdiction from the "Countries" menu.  Then look for the link to information about the official gazette next to the heading "Primary Sources."
  • Law Library of Congress Guide to Law Online -- Begin by selecting the desired jurisdiction.  After the page refreshes, use the table of contents on the left to navigate.  If the official gazette is available online, you should find a link to the electronic version on the Legislation page.  Visit the Legal Guides page for information about the Law Library's print holdings of the official gazette.

Searching Official Gazettes From Multiple Jurisdictions

Researchers who are reluctant to navigate an electronic version of an official gazette in a language other than English should use Global-Regulation instead.  This subscription database enables users to search by keyword in English across official gazettes and legislative databases from 110 jurisdictions that are freely accessible online. 

For non-English speaking jurisdictions, Global Regulation provides machine generated English translations of legal texts.  It also provides a link to each legal text in its original language, as it was published in the jurisdiction's official gazette or database of national legislation.

Gazettes in Print

The official gazette of Canada in English and French. 

If the jurisdiction you are researching does not provide free online access to its official gazette, and if you can't find the law you are seeking using any of the multi-jurisdictional, single-jurisdiction or subject-specific resources described elsewhere in this guide, you will need to consult the print version of the official gazette to access to the full text of the law.

Bear in mind that only a handful of academic and research libraries collect official gazettes from multiple jurisdictions in print.  The Law Library of Congress in Washington, D.C., maintains the most extensive collection of official gazettes in North America.  Use the Foreign Legal Gazettes Database to determine which official gazettes and in what format (print, microfiche, microfilm, or digitized on-site access) are available at the Law Library of Congress.

Researchers planning to access official gazettes at the Law Library of Congress should review this visitor's information page and obtain a reader's ID card before entering the Law Library's reading room.

To determine which other libraries have an official gazette in print, consult the Foreign Official Gazettes (FOG) Database.  It includes records of current and historical official gazettes held by the Law Library of Congress, five other U.S. libraries, and the U.K. National Archives.  Use the pull-down menu to browse by jurisdiction.  Note that the FOG Database is no longer being updated.  Before visiting a library in person to consult official gazettes in print, be sure to contact the library to confirm its holdings of the desired gazette.


The official gazette of Belgium in French and Dutch.

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