A speller qualifying for the 2016 Scripps National Spelling Bee must meet these requirements:
- The speller must not have won a Scripps National Spelling Bee championship near Washington, D.C.
- The speller must attend a school that is officially enrolled with the Scripps National Spelling Bee.
- The speller must not have passed beyond the eighth grade on or before February 1, 2016.
- The speller must not have repeated any grade for the purpose of extending spelling bee eligibility. If the speller has repeated any grade, the speller must notify the Scripps National Spelling Bee of the circumstances of grade repetition by March 31, 2016; and the Scripps National Spelling Bee will, in its sole discretion, determine the speller's eligibility status on or before April 30, 2016.
- The speller–or the speller's parent, legal guardian, or school official acting on the speller's behalf–must not have declared to another entity an academic classification higher than eighth grade for any purpose, including high school graduation equivalency or proficiency examinations and/or examinations such as the PSAT, SAT, or ACT.
- The speller must not have earned the legal equivalent of a high school diploma.
- The speller must not have completed or have been enrolled in more than six high school–level courses or two college–level courses on or before April 30, 2016.
- The speller must not eschew normal school activity to study for spelling bees. The Scripps National Spelling Bee defines normal school activity as adherence to at least four courses of study other than language arts, spelling, Latin, Greek, vocabulary, and etymology for at least four hours per weekday for 34 of the 38 weeks between August 25, 2015, and May 16, 2016.
- The speller must not have reached his/her 15th birthday on or before August 31, 2015.
- The speller must have been declared a champion of a final local spelling bee taking place on or after February 1, 2016, or be a spelling champion of a school whose application for participation in the Scripps National Spelling Bee's school self-sponsorship program has received final approval by the Scripps National Spelling Bee.
- Once having been disqualified at any level of a sponsor's spelling bee program between June 2015 and April 2016, the speller remains disqualified for the 2016 Scripps National Spelling Bee program through another sponsor and/or enrollment in another school.
- The speller, upon qualifying for the 2016 Scripps National Spelling Bee in the Washington, D.C. area, must submit a completed Champion Bio Profile, a Certification of Eligibility Form, a signed Appearance Consent and Release Form and a photo to the Scripps National Spelling Bee. The speller will notify the Bee, at least 24 hours prior to the first day of competition in the 2016 Scripps National Spelling Bee, if any of the statements made on the Certification of Eligibility Form are no longer true or require updating. The speller's sponsor will provide access to the necessary forms.
- The speller must not have any first-, second- or third-degree relatives (i.e. sibling, parent, grandparent, aunt, uncle, niece, nephew, half-sibling, first cousin or great grandparents) who are current employees of The E.W. Scripps Company.
The Scripps National Spelling Bee may disqualify prior to or during competition any speller who is not in compliance with any of the above Eligibility Requirements; and it may—at any time between the conclusion of the 2016 Scripps National Spelling Bee and April 30, 2017—require any speller who is found to have not been in compliance with any of the Eligibility Requirements to forfeit any prizes, rank, and other benefits accorded to the speller as a result of participation in the 2016 Scripps National Spelling Bee.