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Control of the polarization of vertical‐cavity surface‐emitting lasers (VCSELs) using a 240‐nm‐thick amorphous silicon subwavelength transmission grating (SWTG) is demonstrated. The grating, which has a strong polarization dependent reflectance and transmittance, was placed in front of the output window of a VCSEL. It was found that the SWTG can fix the VCSEL’s polarization in the direction perpendicular to the grating fingers, switch polarization directions, enhance the polarization ratio from 20:1 to over 200:1, and decrease the threshold current. Integration of these gratings into the VCSEL structure is discussed. © 1996 American Institute of Physics.