It is demonstrated that relaxation of GaAs/InxGa1–xAs/GaAs strained-layer heterostructures can be brought about by postfabrication thermal processing. Misfit dislocations are introduced into the structure during thermal processing, even though the thickness of the strained layer is well below the critical value predicted by the Matthews–Blakeslee model. The misfit dislocations are observed to be of both 60° mixed type and 90° pure edge type. As no relaxation occurs at the lower temperatures encountered during fabrication by molecular-beam epitaxy, it can be inferred that the critical condition for the formation of misfit dislocations is not only a function of strained-layer thickness and composition, but also of temperature. This observation cannot be accounted for by differential thermal expansion or diffusion across the strained-layer interfaces, but the temperature-dependent Peierls force may offer an explanation. The high temperature required to produce relaxation of these structures suggests that they are sufficiently thermally stable for most practical applications.