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Recent photonic device structures, including distributed Bragg reflectors (DBRs), one-dimensional (1-D) or two-dimensional (2-D) photonic crystals, and surface plasmon devices, often require nanoscale lithography techniques for their device fabrication. Focused ion beam (FIB) etching has been used as a nanolithographic tool for the creation of these nanostructures. We report the use of FIB etching as a lithographic tool that enables sub-100-nm resolution. The FIB patterning of nanoscale holes on an epitaxially grown GaAs layer is characterized. To eliminate redeposition of sputtered materials during FIB patterning, we have developed a process using a dielectric mask and subsequent dry etching. This approach creates patterns with vertical and smooth sidewalls. A thin titanium layer can be deposited on the dielectric layer to avoid surface charging effects during the FIB process. This FIB nanopatterning technique can be applied to fabricate optoelectronic devices, and we show examples of 1-D gratings in optical fibers for sensing applications, photonic crystal vertical cavity lasers, and photonic crystal defect lasers.