Polarization-maintaining fiber (PMF) has attracted great attentions not only due to its ability to realize coherent optic communication with ultrahigh-capacity, but also because it can be widely employed in high-precise fiber-optic sensors and optic information processors, e.g., fiber-optic gyroscope and fiber-optic amperemeter. Distinct with common monomode optic fibers, additional birefringence is introduced in the PMF, minimizing the effect of mode coupling between two orthogonal polarization modes in optic fibers. Thus, light polarization can be maintained after long distance transmission in the PMF. However, beat-length, which reflects the characteristic of induced birefringence and evaluates the ability of polarization maintaining, is one of the most important parameters for PMF. Accurate measurement of PMF beat length becomes more and more important along with the expanding of its application field. The uniqueness of the measurement results determines the identity of PMF fabrication and the resolution of fiber-optic sensors. The existing measurement methods for PMF beat length are introduced first. Most testing setups are established by several individual components, which lead to complicated setup, inconvenient testing, and unsteady measurement. In this paper, a novel all fiber beat length measurement system is presented, where optic source, integrated optic modulator, stress apply structure, polarization detector, and polarization indicator of output light are included. The configuration and working principle of the whole system, and the designing and realization of each components, are addressed in the paper. Furthermore, the influence on measurement results by the relative direction between applied stress and principal axis of the optic fiber is analyzed. Moreover, optimized designs, including polarized light incidence, pressure apply, and precise movement systems, are performed, which ensure the identical pressure apply direction in the moving process. Finally, measurement of PMF samples is carried out on experimental setup. In comparison with the other existing system, due to its all fiber light incidence structure, the novel beat length measurement system represents great stability and high reliability.© (2010) COPYRIGHT SPIE--The International Society for Optical Engineering. Downloading of the abstract is permitted for personal use only.