Erbium-doped LiNbO3 films have been produced in a single-step process by alternate pulsed laser deposition. The dopant is incorporated in submonolayers whose nominal indepth separation is varied in the range 1.7–4.0 nm to lead respectively to Er concentrations in the range 3.4–0.6×1020 atoms/cm-3. All the films exhibit the characteristic Er3+ photoluminescence at 1.54 μm with lifetime values as high as 3 ms. The d33 nonlinear coefficients determined from second-harmonic generation experiments are in the range 22–28 pm/V, the films having nominal Er submonolayer indepth separation of 3–4 nm exhibiting d33 values slightly above that of the bulk material. The comparison of the d33 values obtained in the Er-doped films to those reported earlier for similar undoped films shows clearly that both the structural quality and the second-harmonic performance of the films can be enhanced by Er doping. © 2002 American Institute of Physics.