We experimentally and numerically report on polarization switching (PS) mechanism which involves a two-mode limit cycle dynamics in a vertical-cavity surface-emitting laser (VCSEL) subject to orthogonal optical injection from a master laser (ML). The VCSEL (slave laser, SL) emits a horizontal linearly polarized (LP) fundamental mode, without optical injection. The VCSEL is injected by a vertically polarized light from ML. Dynamical characteristics of the VCSEL are investigated as a function of optical injection parameters, i.e., injection strength and frequency detuning between master and slave lasers. We experimentally resolve an injection parameter region for which, as the injection strength is increased for fixed detunings, a limit cycle dynamics in both non-injected and injected modes is abruptly excited. For larger injection strengths, the VCSEL switches from the two-mode to a single-mode limit cycle dynamics which involves only the injected mode. Using continuation methods, we numerically identify two torus bifurcation mechanisms, namely TR 1 and TR 2, which support such a switching scenario. We show that both TR 1 and TR 2 originate from a particular Hopf bifurcation which plays a key role in the polarization dynamics of the injected VCSEL. Furthermore, our results reveal that the newly observed switching dynamics are generic features of VCSEL two-mode systems.© (2008) COPYRIGHT SPIE--The International Society for Optical Engineering. Downloading of the abstract is permitted for personal use only.