The effects of etch depth on the sidewall roughness (SWR) of InGaAsP/InP waveguides fabricated utilizing two types of masks, NiCr/SiO2 and SiO2/NiCr/SiO2, were investigated with an atomic force microscopy. All the waveguides were etched in an inductively coupled plasma–reactive ion etching to depths ranging from 4 to 8 μm. The root-mean-square (rms) sidewall roughness values of the waveguides etched to depths of 4, 6, and 8 μm with SiO2 remasking layer were measured to be 2.97, 3.45, and 3.64 nm, respectively. Also the rms SWR values of the waveguides etched without the remasking layer were 3.2, 3.65, and 3.89 nm, respectively. The SiO2 thin remasking layer deposited on NiCr/SiO2 mask structure reduced the SWR of the waveguides. Measurements indicated that SWR increased with etch time, which is ascribed to an increase in mask erosion during etching. © 2003 American Vacuum Society.