A step-graded InAlAs buffer layer and an In0.52Al0.48As/In0.53Ga0.47As metamorphic high electron mobility transistor (MM-HEMT) structures were grown by molecular beam epitaxy on GaAs (001) substrates, and rapid thermal annealing was performed on them in the temperature range 500–800 °C for 30 s. The as-grown and annealed samples were investigated with Hall measurements, and 77 K photoluminescence. After rapid thermal annealing, the resistivities of step-graded InAlAs buffer layer structures became high. This can avoid leaky characteristics and parasitic capacitance for MM-HEMT devices. The highest sheet carrier density ns and mobility μ for MM-HEMT structures were achieved by annealing at 600 and 650°C, respectively. The relative intensities of the transitions between the second electron subband to the first heavy-hole subband and the first electron subband to the first heavy-hole subband in the MM-HEMT InGaAs well layer were compared under different annealing temperatures. © 2002 American Institute of Physics.