To qualify directly, a nation had to be ranked in the top five following the 2016 IIHF Women's World Championship. Using the IIHF World Ranking points system, the 2016 received full value, and each preceding year was worth 25% less. Teams that wished to compete must apply in "early spring of 2016". The following is a ranking based on points accumulated toward Olympic qualification of all countries.
Points were earned based on overall finish, available points for 2016 were as follows:
This round was played from 7 to 9 October 2016 in Mexico City. The winner advanced to the preliminary round 2 as qualifier seven.
All times are local (UTC–5).
This round was played between 3–6 November 2016 in Astana, Kazakhstan and San Sebastián, Spain. The winner of each group advanced to the preliminary round 3 as qualifiers five and six, ranked according their seeding.